How long does your light bulb last? A few weeks? Maybe a few months or perhaps a year or two at best. Well, say hello to the Centennial Light Bulb at Fire Station No. 6 in Livermore, California that has been burning since 1901.
Although the exact date when the bulb was turned on is not known, the birthday celebrations are usually planned for the 18th June. What is known for a fact is that it has remained on 24 hours every day since it became active. The only times that it was out; it was either because of the power outages during the 113 years and the two breaks that it had to face. One break occurred in 1976 when the bulb had to be shifted to another fire station and the other in 2013. During the shifting of bulb that happened about 38 years ago, the process was carried with due diligence and extreme caution. In fact, the bulb wasn’t even unscrewed, the power cord was severed and it was transferred with a fire truck and police escort. The whole ordeal lasted for about 22 minutes.
The light bulb is a hand blown incandescent lamp that has been improved and was created with a carbon filament. Physicist at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Debora Katz has been carrying out a lot of research on the centennial light bulb and why is it so unique and special. She has been using a vintage light bulb that came from Shelby Electric Co. – almost a replica of Livermore Lamp and says, “The Livermore light bulb differs from a contemporary incandescent bulb in two ways. First its filament is about eight times thicker than a contemporary bulb. Second, the filament is a semiconductor, most likely made of carbon. When a conductor gets hotter, its ability to conduct electricity goes down. When the Shelby bulb gets hotter, it becomes a better conductor of electricity.”
This amazing bulb has been able to surprise scientists for over a century and as of now no one has produced an answer to explain why it has lasted for this long. Katz has plans for carrying out further tests on the filament of the vintage Shelby bulb at Annapolis Naval Academy with the help of a particle accelerator. She believes, “It is possible that the Livermore light bulb is one of a kind.”
The bulb has been registered in the Guinness World Records as the longest burning light bulb in the world. It has been an object of utmost interest and Fire Station 6 even has a live camera installed that focuses only on the bulb and refreshes after every 10 minutes. The bulb, so far, has survived 3 cameras and a UPS unit. They sure knew how to make stuff back then!