Experiments You Can Do at Home - But Probably Shouldn't

Chapter 2
Doomsday DIY » Building Your Own Lightbulb

Building Your Own Lightbulb

Act as if you're smarter than Edison: Construct a lightbulb the modern way with some helium and an old welder. Thomas Edison famously spent months trying to make a lightbulb work. He tested one material after another in an evacuated bell jar before he finally got a carbon filament to burn long enough to sell it with a straight face. When I had a free afternoon recently, I thought I'd see if I could do it too.

Edison's first mistake was living before tungsten wire was available. Tungsten is way better than carbon as a filament material, and now you can find it in any metal-supply shop. It lasts longer, is less brittle, and glows with a cleaner, whiter light. His second mistake, repeated in classroom physics demonstrations to this day, was using a vacuum to get the air out of the bulb.

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