Beginning of the Fluorescent Lamp
Fluorescent lights have been around longer than you may think. The first of the linear fluorescent lamps was presented in 1939 to the public at the New York World’s Fair. However, they were still not presented to the market this early in time. Ed Hammer was the owner of the first fluorescent lamp ever made in 1936, 3 years before the one presented at the World’s Fair. He had it in his lab and as far as he knows it was the only one in the world. It was a globe shape with 2 electrodes in the middle. Unfortunately it was moved and has since been misplaced.
Through the 1940′s and 50′s there was literature that stated that high frequency lighting could be created. In the 1950′s and 60′s scientists continued to work towards a better fluorescent lamp. There was a high frequency fluorescent lamp created by Jack Campbell in a city library in Mexico around this time.
What Took So Long for Fluorescent Lamps to Enter the Market?
The original fluorescent lamps only have a life of 2500 hours. Even though this was already better than the comparable incandescent bulbs (750 hours), there were other issues holding them back. There was not a lot of high speed equipment to make the lamps at that point in time, and because of this it led to extremely high costs. On top of all of this they contained elements that were very harmful to the environment.
What Steps Were Taken to Finally Reach the Market?
In 1950 there was some progress as they discovered how to turn phosphors to liquid instead of organics. This helped meet EPA standards as well as make it easier to coat the lamps. The manufacturing process was improved which led to better maintenance (how the quality of light output remains).
The next step was the improvement in lamp life when zirconia was added as a ‘glue’ to hold the emissions mix to the filaments. This increased the life from 2500 hours to 7500 hours!
According to Ed, it turns out the GE had the patents to the phosphor to liquid process and Sylvania had the patents to the zirconia process. They decided to exchange the patents as a fair trade.
Improving the process was the next development, by using more pure mercury and having better control of the phosphor size. The life of the lamp was again improved, from 7500 hours to 10,000 hours.
The next step was for the electronics crew to create the ballasts to accompany the lamps. In the 1960′s electromagnetic ballasts were used as they were cheap and simple. They lasted a long time but had some issues such as causing buzzing or flickering of the lamps. Since then these have obviously been improved, as it is imperative for the electronic ballast to work and be as efficient as the lamp itself.
“A compact fluorescent is a marriage between a lamp and a ballast, and if designed properly they work together”