Home Lighting – It’s a Miracle!


We tend these days to take instant illumination for granted but it can be interesting, not to mention educational, to reflect upon lighting as it was before it became available to us at the simple flick of a switch.

For the simple task of lighting up a medium sized room two options were generally available, but both brought with them some attendant problems. The oil lamp, whilst it certainly did the job to which it was entrusted, tended to leave in its wake an unpleasant residue of soot whilst candles, as well as needing to be lit in quantities for them to have the desired effect, could be hazardous in the extreme as they were unstable and made the surrounds vulnerable to all the perils of a naked flame.

The Arrival of the Lightbulb

The electric light bulb arrived towards the latter part of the nineteenth century courtesy (depending upon which account of events one reads) of either Thomas Edison or Sir Joseph Swan and had before very long this veritable miracle of an invention had been adopted in homes everywhere, beginning with those who had the financial means to install this revolutionary new system but soon reaching out, through economies of scale, to the poorest of households.

Here Comes the Science Bit

Light itself is an energy form that is released by an atom. It comprises a number of small particles containing momentum and energy but no mass. These particles, known as light photons, are the most basic units of light.

Atoms release light photons when their electrons are stimulated. An electron is a negatively charged particle which moves about the nucleus of an atom. An atom's electrons contain varying levels of energy, depending upon a number of factors including speed and their distance from the nucleus. Whenever an atom gains or loses energy this change is expressed through the movement of electrons.

The wavelength of the light emitted depends entirely upon how much energy is released during the process, which in turn depends upon the specific position of the electron. Thus different types of atoms will release different kinds of light photons. This in essence is the mechanism that is at play in almost all light sources. The real difference between these sources is contained within the process of exciting the atoms.

Modern Electricity and Home Lighting

To be truthful we probably do not give the fundamentals of this process very much thought when we use our own home lighting. Generally we just trip the switch and expect it to work. Whilst the principle behind electric lighting has remained more or less constant since Edison’s days however there is available an increasingly sophisticated range of lighting options, in terms both of performance and design.


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