nernst lamp was invented as an improvement to the existing incandescent
lamp. It lasted longer and had improved efficiency. The lamp became
a serious competitor to standard bamboo and cellulose
filament incandescent bulbs at the time. The nernst lamp was created
by a physicist not an untrained tinker. This was actually an important
trend of the 1890s. Simple trial and error methods used by Thomas
Edison would not be able to create such a sophisticated device.
The success of engineer/inventors equipped with the latest in scientific
knowledge acquired in Germany and Switzerland sent a powerful message
to the rest of the world that we are in a new age of technology. Because
of market threat from the nernst lamps(Sold by Nernst in Europe and
Westinghouse in US) and tantalum filament lamps (owned by Siemens
& Halske), General Electric founded the GE Research Lab and
hired people of every nationality to work together. Corporations knew
they had to trust and invest in the 'new' breed of engineer to keep
per watt: 6-9
*Lamp life: 450 - 1200 hours
*Color Temperature ~3000
uses: indoor lighting, specific medical uses where infrared
light is needed
light is now obsolete. Nernst lamp heyday was 1900 - 1913. They
are no longer produced.
Lamp uses a small ceramic rod that was heated to incandescence.
The lamp is also called a incandescent "glower". Ceramic
does not oxidize like metal, so it did not need to be enclosed
in a bulb.
the heater tubes would rise in temperature to the point of a
soft red glow. This would prepare the glower. When the glower
reached a certain temperature the resistivity dropped to the
point where current would begin to flow through it. At this
point a shifter or switch would stop providing power to the
heater tubes and all current would flow through the glower (see
the video of the schematic below).
The glower created a nice pure white light similar to a halogen
point of the bulb in regular incandescent
lamps is to create a vacuum around the filament to prevent
the filament from oxidizing which lengthens the life of the
filament. In a nernst lamp the glower had a longer life than
the incandescents of the time. The glower could be replaced,
boxes of replacement glowers were sold. This was much more practical
than replacing the whole lamp head unit (see the illustration
ballast is made of pure iron wire in a glass bulb filled with
hydrogen gas (to prevent rust). It is a simple resistor.
of how the lamp works: (embedded Youtube video)
Type A Nernst
coiled ceramic glower
Type C lamp.
Westinghouse ended up buying the license to sell the lamp in
North America. This illustration above shows a large nernst
lamp with 6 glowers. This would allow the lamp to be placed
on high ceiling interior locations where it could replace the
already popular carbon arc lamp. This meant that the nernst
lamp was competition for older small and large area lighting
2. Inventors and Developments
Nernst Lamp was invented byWalther
Nernst in Göttingen,
in 1897. This lamp emits a natural light, close to the daylight
spectrum, unlike incandescent bulbs.
was born Briesen in West Prussia (close to the same region as
and studied in Zurich, Berlin, Wuerzburg. He founds the Institute
of Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry at Göttingen
in 1897. He worked on many other technologies and with a heavy
background in science he helped steer engineering into a new
age. He was a outspoken opponent of Nazism and Adolf Hitler,
and as a result lost his job as a scientist and died poor in
Langmuir studied under Walther Nernst in Göttingen
and helped him develop the Nernst lamp. Langmuir went on to
work for GE and greatly improve the incandescent lamp. (see
the Incandescent Lamp section above)
The "Nernst Glower" was important for use in the medical
field in infrared spectroscopy until the 1980s.
by M.Whelan with additional research by Rick DeLair
Please contact us if you are a historian and wish to correct or improve
The Subdivision of the Light by Unknown
History of Electric Light and Power" by B. Bowers
Westinghouse lamp catalogues from 1901-1903
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