From Photosynthesis to Shannon Speed Internet: The Story of Light

Apples defined gravity and flying machines defied it. Thanks to physics, we can understand the everyday phenomena happening around us. Phenomenon that are embedded in our daily life, like gravity, relativity, mass, energy, particles, and light. Light of all is one of the most significant discoveries of all time. Thomas Alva Edison discovered electric light, but do you know history tells us Edison was able to invent light based on at least 22 scientific predecessor’s research and study. This International Day of Light, let us learn a little something about the story of light and the physics behind its discovery.

  1. It wasn’t just Edison who made this greatest invention of all time

An English inventor William Sawyer had managed to design an incandescent lamp and filed for a patent at least a year before Edison. United States Patent Office brought to light that Edison’s work was based on Sawyer’s. Roughly six years later, both Edison and Sawyer joined hands as their work on carbon-filament proved to be a big improvement. Over the years, the use of Edison bulbs widespread. Before this, in 1802, Humphry Davy invented the first electric light by experimenting with electricity and invented Davy Lamp (an early form of arc lamp) using electric battery. In 1840, Warren de la Rue came up with a light bulb enclosed with coiled platinum filament which turned out to be an efficient design but expensive due to use of platinum material.

  1. How was light bulb invented?

In 1880, British inventors demonstrated that light could be produced using arc lamp. And in 1835, electric light was discovered based on which scientists around the world worked on to create commercial light that could be used for a long span. After years of creating different designs and conducting experiments, a high-resistance carbon filament that charges up through electric current was discovered. That is what glows in a light bulb. How do you use this glow to spread efficiently? A glass bell solved that problem. Before this discovery, houses and streets were lit by oil and gas alternatives.

  1. Leap-years later, we see light transform into great modern applications

In 1906, The General Electric Company patented the method of making tungsten filaments. In 1920s, the first frosted lightbulb with adjustable power beams for car headlamps and neon lights were produced. In 1930s, a very crucial line of work today – Photography discovered its one-time flashbulbs and florescent tanning lamps. Around 1980s, following soft lights and quartz glass, low wattage metal halides were produced. Adhering to years of study, today, light has widespread applications like LED lights, using photosynthesis for food formation, plant life and growth, light energy for body physiology, using radiation to cure diseases, and much more.

High-speed communication using light and optical fibre cables are the most recent form of its application. With a world full of possibilities to solve our energy consumption crisis, further innovation and research continue to realize the great potential of LIGHT.

(The views expressed in this article are by Vikas Agarwal, Head, Topper Division (JEE). doesn’t own any responsibility for it.)

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