Modern incandescent bulbs are exclusively tungsten filament bulbs: No other material comes close to tungsten as an ideal filament material. But in the early days of lamp making, several other elements were used including the very popularcarbon filaments and much rarer osmium and platinum filaments (which I have no samples of, sadly).
This tantalum-filament bulb is a fabulous curiosity for an element collector such as myself. I had no idea tantalum was ever used in lamp filaments, and in fact it was only used for a few years ending in 1910, so these bulbs are very rare. (See this website for pictures and information about nearly every tantalum lamp ever made. According to that website, my bulb is a 20 candlepower., 42 watt, 100-125 volt bulb. For comparison a modern 20W compact fluorescent bulb produces about 100 candlepower: 5 times as much light for half the power.)
Reader Art Braunschweiger has provided me with another fascinating bit of information: Among the many technical innovations and high-end features on the Titanic was that it was outfitted entirely with tantalum filament bulbs. They were touted as so reliable and efficient (compared to carbon filament bulbs) that night lights could be left on all night. This website has many details about the electrical equipment on the Titanic.
This bulb is also a fabulous sample because it shows that, yes, people really do buy and sell burned out light bulbs on eBay. Do you need any more proof that eBay is the most amazing market place ever?
This bulb is displayed in my Bulb Stand.
Source: eBay seller nwy
Contributor: eBay seller nwy
Acquired: 20 November, 2003
Text Updated: 11 August, 2007
Sample Group: Light Bulbs