Fire, Tungsten Wire, Glass Tubing and a One of a Kind Light Bulb
Hosted by: UT Austin Glass Shop
Watch Demos with a Live Q&A in our Live Broadcast Booth:
- Saturday, March 6, 2021, 12:30 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
- Saturday, March 6, 2021, 1:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.
- Saturday, March 6, 2021, 2:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Recommended Grades: All Grades
Without glass, the world would be unrecognizable. It’s in the eyeglasses on your face, the lightbulbs in your room, and the windows that let you see outside. From the lenses of telescopes used to discover other worlds to the glassware used in chemistry to the optical fibers used to transfer information across continents, glass has also been critical to scientific discovery. Here at the UT Glass Shop we continue to enable world-class research through scientific glassblowing. You can usually find us fixing broken glassware and making complex apparatuses for researchers. Today though we thought we would showcase the immense engineering needed to create one of the most common glass containing items we encounter every day: the light bulb.
Although many believe that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, he was not the first to show that light could be produced by passing electricity through a filament (a thin wire). Edison’s light bulb was the first that could be used long enough to be adopted for widespread use lasting up to 1,200 hours (50 days) before burning out. The next major milestone was replacing Edison’s carbon filament with a tungsten filament that lasts up to 10,000 hours and is still in use today. The filament is surrounded by a glass bulb and all of the air is removed from inside the glass bulb to protect the filament from burning out. Glass is used because it is transparent and can withstand the high temperature of the filament which can reach 4,500°F (10 times hotter than your oven at home).
How does this activity connect to STEM and today's Girl Day theme of Exploring Earth and Energy?
- The light bulb is a great example of the engineering needed to light our world and was a major milestone in human development
- Incandescent light bulbs like the one we are making today are not used as much now because more energy-efficient alternatives are used like LED light bulbs
- While light bulbs are made by large, automated machines in factories, our journey making one by hand showcases the range of skills needed to make such a simple item
- Skills we are using today include scientific glassblowing, machining of filaments, chemistry and electronics
More about the UT Glass Shop
The Glass Shop at UT is located in Welch Hall and is staffed by Adam Kennedy. We create, repair, and modify various glass instruments for departments throughout the university. This can be as simple as fixing a small crack, or as complex as collaborating with scientists to create an entirely new design and building it from scratch. While most people think we make beakers and test tubes, scientific glassblowing is much more complicated than that requiring a great deal of planning and experience to make the apparatuses needed. The work we do here enables UT research amongst a broad range of disciplines.