Incandescent light bulbs may have a bright future after all


July 15, 2009

Traditional incandescent bulb (left) and  one using Deposition Sciences technology (right)
Photo: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Traditional incandescent bulb (left) and one using Deposition Sciences technology (right) Photo: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

In the face of legislation being enacted around the world, the future of the trusty incandescent light bulb has been looking dim. Ireland has banned the sale of incandescent bulbs, and the United States is set to phase them out by 2012. And it’s no wonder -- the apple of Thomas Edison’s eye is something of an energy hog, especially when compared with modern bulbs such as compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs and LED-based lights. But now a new technology from Deposition Sciences Inc of Santa Rosa, California, is promising a brighter future for the venerable incandescent.

The New York Times reports that Deposition Sciences, a producer of optical thin-film coatings, has developed an enhanced silver coating that it says provides superior reflector performance and increased lumen output. In a traditional incandescent bulb, only a small portion of the energy used is converted into light. The rest is emitted as heat. In the new bulb design, the Deposition Sciences coating is applied to a gas-filled capsule that surrounds the bulb’s filament. The coating reflects heat back to the filament, where a portion of it is transformed into additional light.

The first of these new bulbs to reach consumers are Philips Lighting’s Halogena Energy Savers. While more expensive than traditional incandescent bulbs, the Halogena Energy Savers are 30% more efficient. Philips says its 70-watt Halogena Energy Saver produces the same amount of light as a traditional 100-Watt bulb and lasts about three times as long.

Deposition Sciences says it has already achieved a 50% increase in efficiency in the laboratory, and hopes a lighting manufacturer will bring this latest technology to market soon.

Other developments in incandescent bulb technology include research at the University of Rochester using lasers to pit the surface of the tungsten filament, and work at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute that employs an iridium-coated filament that recycles wasted heat.


Is a 50% increase in efficiency enough to save the filamentous bulbs? I doubt it... with LED lighting on the horizon that has a 500% increase in efficiency, with a 1000% increase in lifespan... this seems a case of \"too little, too late\".

But, it may have some applications, and if it\'s far cheaper than LED, may have a role as gapping technology for a period of time.



LED may be the future but I\'m old enough to be preoccupied with the present. The LEDs I\'ve seen are like little spotlights. I prefer being able to see the entire room. Incandescents and florescents bathe the entire room with light.

I noticed my friend\'s ceiling fan had 3 LEDs and 1 compact florescent. He said, \"I\'m really sold on LEDs.\"

I replied, \"Why the 1 florescent?\"

His answer: \"Oh, that\'s for when I need to read.\"


IggyDalrymple, obviously you haven\'t seen many LED bulbs, have a look around, there\'s heaps out there, google is your friend!

Start with the EarthLED units (one evolux will light an average bedroom, I have them at my place and they are great) and there\'s many, many others, you just have to look.

Even many of the Chinese cheapeies like are worth a look. I have one of those in a large lounge room (5 hours a night for the last year or so) and it does quite well, and there\'s much bigger versions around.

Mr T

Before the green police arrived on the scene I used incandescent bulbs to warm rooms in use and significantly lower my energy consumption on the whole. With a brutally cold Midwestern winter, legislated higher electricity costs and no option for smart energy use due to the geniuses that know everything I spent triple my normal amount and produced double the amount of that highly toxic C02.

Mean while Al Gore flew around the world on his private jet telling me what a bad boy I am. Sighhhh.

Jim Bowman

If you want to combine heat with light, just do as I do: burn candles. I know this creates more CO2, but it is much more beautiful.

Chris Goodwin

@Jim Bowman: Your comments strain credulity. If your electricity costs have tripled, it's not because you ditched your incandescent bulbs. Electrical heat is 100% efficient so heating with other than bulbs would have given you a slight savings.

Roy Murray
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