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The History of Lighting from Gas Lamps to LED

Posted on 13 Sep, 2023

From flickering gas lamps casting an eerie glow on cobblestone streets to the crisp, energy-efficient beams of LED lights illuminating our modern world, the evolution of lighting has been nothing short of remarkable. As humans progressed through centuries, so did our need for better ways to light up our surroundings. Today, we take for granted the convenience and versatility of indoor and outdoor lighting options that seamlessly integrate with our daily lives. We wanted use our latest blog to reflect upon the fascinating journey that led us from primitive flames to cutting-edge technologies that not only brighten our world but also minimise energy consumption.

The history of artificial lighting begins with the humble oil lamp, which can be dated back as far as 4500 BC. These early lamps were simple clay or stone vessels filled with oil and topped with a wick made from reeds or plant fibres. They provided a small but steady source of light that allowed early civilisations to extend their days and accomplish tasks long after sunset.

Gas lamps

It wasn't until 1792 that gas lighting made its debut, thanks to the pioneering efforts of a man named William Murdoch. This British inventor began experimenting with coal gas and its use as a light source in his home in Cornwall. He successfully lit his house using gas lamps and went on to install them in several factories and public buildings in his area.

The introduction of gas lamps changed both interior and street lighting, providing brighter illumination than their predecessors while also being more economical. Gaslight spread rapidly across Europe, leading to significant changes in urban life. Suddenly, streets were safer at night, businesses could operate longer hours, and social activities extended well into the evening. The arrival of gas lamps marked an important step towards our modern-day reliance on artificial lighting for both practical purposes and aesthetic ambiance.

Incandescent bulbs

In 1874, Russian engineer Alexander Lodygin obtained a patent for his incandescent lamp design. However, it was not until 1879 that Thomas Edison and Joseph Swan jointly patented a more durable version of the incandescent lamp using carbon-thread filaments.

With this major development, the new incandescent bulbs could now last up to an impressive 40 hours. This remarkable improvement in longevity marked a significant advancement in technology. The longer lifespan of these bulbs meant that people could rely on them for extended periods without constantly changing or replacing them.

The introduction of the carbon-thread incandescent lamp opened up new possibilities across various industries, including manufacturing, transportation, and public utilities. It paved the way for widespread adoption of electric lights in homes and businesses around the world. With longer-lasting bulbs readily available to consumers, society could enjoy increased productivity and efficiency during nighttime hours.

Fluorescent lights

The invention of the fluorescent lamp in 1867 by Alexandre Edmond Becquerel marked a significant milestone in lighting technology. Becquerel, a French physicist, demonstrated the first-ever fluorescent lamp using electric currents passing through different gases to produce light. This breakthrough led to further developments in the field, eventually paving the way for more efficient and cost-effective solutions.

Nearly six decades later, in 1926, Edmund Germer received a patent for the modern fluorescent lamp. Germer's design featured a tube coated on the inside with phosphors that emitted visible light when excited by ultraviolet rays. This innovation greatly improved the efficiency and brightness of fluorescent lamps, making them suitable for a wide range of applications.

Fast forward to 1981, when Philips introduced the Compact Fluorescent Energy Saving Lamp to the market. This smaller version of traditional fluorescent lamps offered increased energy efficiency and longevity while also being compatible with existing incandescent light fixtures. The widespread adoption of compact fluorescents played a crucial role in reducing energy consumption around the world and contributed towards greener initiatives.

In 1991, Philips revolutionised the lighting industry further with the invention of a fluorescent lightbulb that boasted an impressive lifespan of 60,000 hours. This breakthrough came about through the use of magnetic induction, a technology that allowed for more efficient energy transfer and ultimately resulted in bulbs that outlasted traditional options by many times over. Suddenly, consumers were faced with a new possibility: no longer would they have to constantly replace their lightbulbs or deal with the inconvenience and expense associated with frequent burnouts.

Just three years later, in 1994, Philips introduced T5 lamps with cool tip technology. These slender fluorescent tubes not only enhanced aesthetics but also offered improved performance. With their reduced diameter and unique design, T5 lamps emitted less heat compared to previous models while delivering bright and efficient lighting solutions. The cool tip innovation further increased safety as it minimised the risk of accidental burns when changing or handling these lights. As a result, businesses and homeowners quickly embraced this new generation of fluorescent bulbs for their exceptional longevity and enhanced performance.

Halogen lamps

The invention of the halogen lamp by Elmer Fridrich in 1953 introduced a new lighting option that provided improved brightness and longer lifespan compared to traditional incandescent bulbs.

Unlike incandescent bulbs, halogen lamps contain a small amount of halogen gas, usually iodine or bromine. This gas helps to extend the lifespan of the filament by redepositing evaporated tungsten back onto it, preventing blackening and ultimately leading to a longer-lasting bulb.

Halogen lamps produce a significantly brighter light than incandescent bulbs, thanks to their higher colour temperature. The light emitted by these lamps is closer to natural daylight, creating a more vibrant and inviting atmosphere in any space.

LED lights

The invention of LED lights in 1927 by Oleg Losev was a significant milestone in the field of lighting technology. However, it wasn't until 1995 when Shuji Nakamura at Nichia labs invented the first practical blue and white LED that LEDs gained widespread popularity and became the future of lighting. This breakthrough allowed for the creation of LED lights that emit a wide spectrum of colours, making them suitable for various applications such as indoor and outdoor lighting, displays, automotives and even horticulture.

LED lights have proven to be more energy-efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs and even compact fluorescent bulbs. They consume up to 80% less energy while providing the same or even better brightness levels. This not only reduces electricity costs but also contributes to a greener environment by reducing carbon emissions. LED technology has evolved rapidly over time, with advancements in efficiency and longevity. LEDs can now last up to 50 times longer than traditional bulbs, resulting in reduced maintenance costs. With continuous research and development efforts taking place around the world, we can expect further improvements in LED technology that will revolutionise our way of living and illuminate our future with sustainable bright light.

Lighting has come a long way

The evolution of lighting has transformed the way we illuminate our spaces. Not only has it provided us with more efficient and eco-friendly options, but it has also opened up new opportunities in the field of design.

Whether you are interested in pursuing a career as a lighting designer, product designer or an interior designer, registering with Careers in Design can connect you with the latest job opportunities in these fields. Register your cv today and embark on a rewarding new job.

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