Lights out for the traditional bulb in Britain

January 6th, 2009 - 2:49 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 6 (IANS) The traditional light bulb is finally being switched off for the last time in Britain. A voluntary withdrawal scheme of the government is now in motion and use of the bulb will be banned from 2012.The idea is to switch over from the incandescent bulb to the energy-saving - therefore, environment-friendly - compact fluorescent lamps (CFL).

The 150w light bulb was scrapped last year. Now, there is to be no replenishment of stocks of the 100w and 75w bulbs in shops. Current stocks may run out in a few weeks. The 60w version will be available till the end of next year.

A spokesman for Tesco, which is Britain’s largest seller of light bulbs, told Daily Mail: “All the 100w and 75w incandescent light bulbs will be gone in the next couple of weeks.”

The switch to low-energy bulbs is expected to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by around five million tonnes a year, according to the government.

These CFLs use just a quarter of the energy of a conventional bulb. A single CFL can save a household around 7 pounds a year.

However, critics complain that compact fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, making them dangerous to dispose off, and give off a harsh light more suited to offices than living rooms.

They can also take up to a minute to reach full brightness and do not work with dimmer switches.

Medical charities say the fluorescent bulbs can trigger migraines, epilepsy and skin rashes. Researchers claim the light emitted by fluorescent bulbs is made up of a disproportionate amount of red and blue, which can cause the problems.

Lee Tomkins, of Migraine Action Association, said: “We’re recommending that people stockpile the old ones for now.” She advises people who suffer from migraines to avoid using fluorescent bulbs as reading lights, or in living areas and kitchens.

Irrespective of the complaints, it is the end of the light bulb era that began in 1802 when English chemist Sir Humphry Davy induced current in the four-inch gap between two strips of charcoal, creating the first arc lamp.

In 1840, English scientist Warren de la Rue made a prototype bulb by placing a coil of platinum inside a glass tube and pumping out air to create vacuum. When he passed current through the metal, it glowed.

In 1854, American-German watchmaker Heinrich Gobel used a carbonised strip of bamboo inside a glass bulb, but the glow did not last for long. An English scientist, Sir Joseph Wilson Swan, used a cotton filament in 1878 and the bulb glowed for 13 hours.

The following year, in 1879, Thomas Edison patented a similar bulb in the US. He created the first commercial bulb a year later.

The cotton and bamboo filaments were replaced with tungsten in the early 1900s and in 1934, two filaments were intertwined to create a longer-lasting and brighter bulb.

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