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GLOW IN THE DARK

Make your own electrical light bulb

Suitable For

Grade 7

Difficulty

2

Time Required

 <24 Hours

Supervision

Required

What’s it about?

The production of heat when electricity passes through a wire is often used in appliances where high temperatures is required, such as in electrical heaters, bread toasters and even hair dryers. This heat build-up caused by the ‘resistance’ in an electrical conduit can also be used to create light such as in a light bulb.

A regular light bulb consists of a ‘filament’ (the resistor) that is mounted in a vacuum chamber (glass container). When electrical current is passed through the filament, the resistance builds up so much heat that it starts to emit light. In this science experiment, build your own light bulb and test various filaments to see which works best:

Topics covered

Resistance, Filament

What will I need?

  • INSULATED COPPER WIRE
  • 12-V LANTERN BATTERY
  • PENCIL
  • SWITCH
  • CRAFT KNIFE
  • 2x COPPER NAILS
  • WINE CORK
  • GLASS BOTTLE (250ml)
  • BRAIDED PICTURE HANGING CABLE
  • NICHROME WIRE
  • STEEL WOOL
  • WIRE CUTTERS

Procedure (Method)

Unfortunately, this section is only available in the e-book version of the project.

How does it work?

Unfortunately, this section is only available in the e-book version of the project.

The measurement of how well or how poor a material conducts electricity, is called its ‘resistance’. Resistance in a wire depends on how thick or how long it is, and what it is made of. In an electrical current, the resistance causes friction and the friction causes heat. The higher the resistance, the hotter it can get.

In this science experiment, the single strand braided cable ‘filament’ shines a lot brighter than the thicker piece of braided cable, because the thinner the wire the higher the resistance to electrical current, and the hotter it gets. The steel wool in turn, burns for a short while, and then disappears. The steel wool behaves like a fuse – melting and breaking the circuit, when too much current passes through it. The nichrome filament works best because nichrome is made out of nickel, iron and chromium and heats up very quickly due to its high electrical resistance.

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