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1931 - new type of electric illuminating unit which uses only half the power required by present incandescent filament bulbs


CD 1964075 E&MP27.039

Electric Lighting

February 7, 1931

Better Light for Less Power From New Illuminating Unit Tubes Filled With Rare Gases Developed in Claude Laboratories Give Light at Voltages Used in the Home --

THE DEVELOPMENT of a new type of electric illuminating unit which, it is said, uses only half the power required by present incandescent filament bulbs and gives a softer and more uniform light has been announced by Claude Neon Lights, Inc., of New York.

The new lighting unit is the result of refinement of the red, tube-like neon electric signs, which have come into wide use during the past few years, and brings to more complete development a previous invention of Georges Claude, famous French engineer and scientist who last year conducted notable experiments in Cuba to get power from temperature differences of sea water.

A very high voltage is needed to operate the red signs, but the new lighting units, radiating either incandescent white light or a light containing approximately the same wavelengths as that from the sun, can be used with ordinary house wiring or either 110 or 220 volts, alternating or direct current, officers of the Claude organization said. It is stated that theses new low voltage units are ready for application in the industrial and commercial field and that tubes or lights for general household use will be manufactured soon.

Glass tubes, which can be made in any length from several inches to several feet, containing the rare gases of the atmosphere, helium, neon, argon, krypton and xenon, are the most conspicuous elements of the new unit.

The initial cost of the new lights will probably be higher than that of types now in use, officers of the company stated, but when the saving in power consumption is considered the cost over a considerable period of time is expected to be less than that of present electric illumination.

The new tubes distribute light evenly and have a soft, non-glaring quality, it is stated. It is possible to look directly into the exposed tubes for several minutes and turn immediately to read fine print, without undue eyestrain. They do not require heavy diffusing glass which would greatly cut down their efficiency, and they give off much less heat than incandescent lamps.

Four years of laboratory research work and tests have yielded four new developments which make the new units possible. First, the correct mixtures of the rare gases of the atmosphere have been found. These gases, glowing under the action of the current passing through them, and not a metal heated to incandescence, produce the light.

A starting apparatus has been developed which will light the tube seven seconds after the switch is turned. This necessitated the perfection of a heating unit that automatically turns off after the tube is lighted. Electrodes for the conduction of low current and a ballast coil, which largely determines the power consumption and illuminating strength of the units, were designed. The starting apparatus and ballast coil are small and inconspicuous.

An early industrial lighting unit of the new low voltage rare gas tube developed in the Claude Laboratories under the direction of Leo L. Beck. 

Original Caption by Science Service
Claude Neon National Laboratories

National Museum of American History


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