Until just over a century ago, man had two sources for light: the Sun and fire. This all changed with the development of the electric light. The light bulb changed the world immensely. No longer does the world comprise of barbaric people who lived in the dark but a civilized culture who have light at their fingertips. This paper will study in depth the production process, the disposal, and future of the incandescent light bulb.
The origins of the electric light can be dated as far back as 1802 by Sir Humphry Davy. He was able to produce an electric light, but his design was for most purposes impractical. When Thomas A. Edison designed and successfully tested the modern incandescent light in 1879, it caused a revolution resulting in mass production of the bulb. Almost no changes have been made to Edison's original design (Rose and Schlager 145-147). It is used by numerous light bulb producers, one of the most prevalent being General Electric (GE).
The standard GE light bulb consist of the aluminum base which connects to the ends of an electrical circuit. The base is attached to two stiff nickel-iron alloy wires, which are attached to a thin filament. The wires and the filament are housed in a glass bulb, which is filled with an inert gas, such as argon. When the tungsten is heated to a high enough temperature (around 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit) it will emit an enormous amount of visible light (Bloomfield).
The filament in a light bulb is made of a long, incredibly thin length of tungsten metal. In a light bulb, the tungsten filament is about six and one half feet long but only one-hundredth of an inch thick. The tungsten is arranged in a double coil in order to fit it all in a small space. In a regular light bulb, the coil is less than an inch in length. Like all metals, tungsten must be mined. Tungsten is an ideal filament because if its chemical characteristics such as having the highest melting point of all elements except carbon, being one of the heaviest metals, and having extremely high conductivity (Bloomfield) . This element is usually mined underground. Open pit mines exist but are rare. China and Russia are the world's major producers of tungsten (MBendi).
The wires that hold the filament in place are made of a nickel-iron alloy. The world's major producers of nickel are WMC in Australia, Norilsk Nickel in Russia and Inco in Canada. Iron is mined in over fifty counties throughout the globe but the most abundant producers are BHP Billiton in Australia, Companhia Vale do Rio Doce in Brazil, and China (MBendi).
The fourth metal that must be mined for a complete light bulb is aluminum. Aluminum mining involves removing topsoil and any other growth, extracting the ore below, and restoring the land to its former state. In many mines this process involves drilling and blasting allowing the metal to be extracted along with ease. Where blasting would be unacceptable, heavy equipment is used to remove the rock. Once the ore has been excavated, it is loaded onto trucks in preparation for refining into aluminum. Aluminum ore is plentiful and is found mainly in tropical and sub-tropical areas of Africa, West Indies, South America and Australia. There are also some deposits in Europe (Alcoa).
All of these metals are found in the earth as ores, meaning that they are not pure. They are chemically bonded to other elements (generally oxygen). In order for the metals to reach their pure state they must be reduced. When a substance is reduced it loses oxygen. The oxygen must then bind to a new element to remain stable. The element of choice for this is carbon. The result is carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere and produces harmful effects (MBendi).
The last major components of the incandescent light are the glass bulb and Argon gas. Argon is obtained through a process known as liquid air...