The invention of the light bulbs and their evolution

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The invention of the light bulb was the trigger for great breakthroughs of the industrialization, medicine, filmmaking industry and other areas of knowledge. 

October 21, 1879 was a date that changed h​​istory! On that date, Thomas Edison managed to make a light bulb shine for 48 consecutive hours. There arose then the first marketable incandescent light bulb, an experiment that gave rise to what is currently celebrated as the World Lighting Appreciation Day.

Nowadays, electricity is almost everywhere. But do you know how we started to use it?

What is it and where does electricity come from?

Electricity is the application of the electrical energy, which is the passage or transfer of charges. Lightnings are natural discharges from the atmosphere towards the ground, and cavemen saw that in a very visual manner, discovering fire.

One of the basic units of matter composition, the atom contains the protons, which are positively charged, and electrons, which are negatively charged. In an insulated system, they exist in equal quantities; however, the electrons may be set free and be transferred from one body to the other.

The Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus, in the 6th Century BC, by rubbing a piece of amber against the skin of an animal, realized that it would result into the attraction of small objects, such as pieces of straw. The philosopher would believe that such experience was a phenomenon of magnetism; however, he actually discovered the static electricity from friction.

The word “electricity" comes from the Latin electrum, which means amber, a fossil resin from certain types of trees.

Learn more about the History ​of Electricity .​

The history of the electric light bulb


Thomas Edison was a man ahead of his time. Many scientists were also influent for the discovery of the electric light bulb, but Thomas Edison (1847-1931), the fabulous and eccentric American scientist, is the father of the work.

Edison was restless and curious, son of a skillful father, who provided for his family in different functions, such as salesman, carpenter and trader. Edison's mother has always paid special attention to him, since he was the youngest of seven siblings.

Before his great inventions, Thomas Edison worked as a paperboy and telegraph operator, and early on he started to experience his hearing impairments, which has never been an obstacle for his creative talent. Edison, the creator of 1,903 inventions, provided humanity with the light in the darkness.

Thomas Edison's toughest challenge to create the electric light bulb was to maintain the incandescent filament during the electric current. History tells that more than 1,000 attempts were made. However, for Edison, those were not failures, they were discoveries on how to make one light bulb in one thousand different manners.

Thomas achieved the final result in 1879, by attempting to use a carbon filament in a vacuum. Finding the ideal filament may have been the toughest challenge for Edison: altogether, 6,000 different materials, 1,200 tests and the invested amount of 40 thousand US Dollars were necessary. Platinum was the solution for the problem, but it still had a very short durability.

By using a carbonized cotton thread for the filament, Thomas Edison and his team achieved the best result for the filament. With such success, the greatest scientist of all times registered his product and started to market it, by first selling light bulbs for residences with his own company named Edison Electric Company.

The market promptly interacted with his invention and every share issued by the company reached the amount of 3,500 US Dollars. In 1890, after Thomas Edison proved to the world, in court, the authorship of his inventions, the world starts to learn the marvel named electric light bult, now with broad commercial projection, since GE, the potent multinational company General Electric would start to manufacture and market it at large scale.

The evolution of the light bulbs

Since its invention, the electric light bulb has been changing over time, becoming more modern and effective. After 46 years of its marketing, the fluorescent light bulb was created by Nikola Tesla as a more efficient and cost-saving alternative.

With the creation of the LED light bulb, in 1989, it was possible to develop colored lighting, with low voltage. Currently, the other light bulbs, such as the incandescent and halogen bulbs, have their use gradually decreased.

In Brazil, since 2014, it is not possible fabricate or to import 150- and 100-watt incandescent light bulbs. LED light bulbs, in turn, are the commonly used bulbs due to the several benefits related to the sustainability, cost savings and durability.


The benefits of LED Light Bulb for the environment

We cannot talk about light bulbs without mentioning how we may best use the electric energy. LED light bulb may bring cost savings. They spend less energy, despite having the same luminous flux as the fluorescent light bulbs. For that reason, that model is more sustainable and efficient.

The cost savings in the electricity bill in the preference for LED light bulbs may reach 33%. For that reason, even if the initial investment to purchase them may be a little higher, it is offset in a few months of use:

Lamp TypeFluorescentLED
Power (equivalent)15W10th
Monthly expenditure of 5 used lamps for 5 hours daily, for 30 days. KWh cost of R$ 0.86R$ 9.67R$ 6,45


In addition to the cost savings in energy, two positive points of choosing that model are:


One LED light bulb may last up to four times more than the fluorescent light bulb.

Preservation of the environment

An important topic is that the LED light bulb does not contain toxic materials in their composition, such as mercury. They may be disposed as regular trash and their use helps preserve the environment.

What can be analyzed when choosing a light bulb?

When purchasing light bulbs, choose only those bearing Procel Seal, which assures more efficiency. Check for information, such as:

  • Lighting

The lighting capacity is shown by using the measurement unit lumen, which may be contained in the packages, in the area indicating the luminous flux and with the acronym lm.

Before choosing, analyze the characteristics of the environment where the light bulbs will be installed, such as size, ceiling and wall colors and location of the windows. The broader, the darker and the less natural lighting, the higher will be the luminous flux.

  • Power

It is indicated in Watts (W) and directly implies the energy consumption, but be alert: that is not the lighting capacity measure, it is only the energy expenditure.

Tip: when in doubt between two light bulbs with the same power, the most advantageous for you is the one having the higher luminous flux (measured in lumens).

  • Efficiency

The efficiency of the light bulb is the capacity of lighting well spending less energy. Among the LED models, which are​​​​​​​ already better than the others available in the market, you may compare which has the highest luminous efficiency, as expressed in lumen per watt (lm/W).​


Other important information when choosing a light bulb:

Whether the voltage is appropriate for your region (127 volts, 220 volts or dual voltage).

The best indicated color temperature for you, as measured in Kelvin (K). The higher is the temperature, the whiter is the light:

  • Orange yellow (2700 K to 3000 K), more commonly used in living rooms and bedrooms
  • White (4000 K), common for work environments
  • Bluish white (5000 K to 6500 K), proper for kitchens and laundry rooms.

The Color Rendering Index (CRI), which indicates the capacity of faithfully rendering the colors of the objects lighted by the light bult, i.e., if the colors are seen with lights on, they will be real. The closer to 100 is that index, the better is the rendering of colors. In LED models, it ranges from 80 to 90.

In event of a dimmable light bulb, which contains the option of controlling the luminous flux, you may dim it as you will, also reducing the power in order to save energy. That type of light bulb is commonly used in baby rooms.​

Energy Efficiency

The five distributors of Neoenergia – Neoenergia Coelba (BA), Neoenergia Pernambuco (PE), Neoenergia Cosern (RN), Neoenergia Elektro (SP and MS) and Neoenergia Brasília (DF) - allocate 0.4% of their net operating revenues (ROL) in actions to combat energy waste.

In 2019, the company invested almost R$ 50 million in initiatives in the Energy Efficiency Program regulated by the National Electric Energy Agency (ANEEL). More than 222,000 consumer units were benefited and the reduction in consumption reached 58 GWH/year, representing 4,350 tons less in greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2021, about 406,500 LED lamps were replaced by companies, giving more efficiency to the lighting of 2,716 public buildings, NGOs, schools and hospitals in several municipalities.

Conscious consumption is a trend that can help us preserve the environment for future generations. Adopting it means changing our habits by thinking before buying, how can we reduce the impact of what we use on the planet's natural resources? And this starts in small attitudes, including the choice of lighting for our homes.