GE suspends development of “high-efficiency incandescent”

Back in February 2007 General Electric announced that it had made key advancements in the development of a high-efficiency incandescent (HEI) light bulb that would be as efficient as a compact fluorescent bulb (CFLs) but without the mercury and with better light quality. Early versions would hit the market by 2010, the company said. GE basically saw the writing on the wall, as several jurisdictions — including Australia, Canada and several U.S. states — had announced the same year plans to ban inefficient light bulbs somewhere between 2012 and 2015. The HEI was basically the last kick at the can for the 100-plus year old Edison incandescent.

Then, in October 2007, GE announced it was closing plants and cutting hundreds of employees as part of a restructuring of its lighting business. The old inefficient bulb was toast. GE would instead focus its efforts on LEDs, Organic LEDs, and its HEI technology. Harvard business school professor Daniel Snow said GE’s HEI was the company’s “last gasp” of inspiration before the inevitable, final death of the Edison bulb.

A year has passed since GE’s restructuring. I decided to find out the status of the HEI so e-mailed the folks at GE to get an update. Here’s the reply I got today from GE spokesman David Schuellerman:

GE Consumers & Industrial and GE Global Research have suspended the development of the high-efficiency incandescent lamp (HEI) to place greater focus and investment on what we believe will be the ultimate in energy efficient lighting — light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs). Research and development of these technologies is moving at an impressive pace and will be ready for general lighting in the near future. LEDs and OLEDs used in general lighting are now poised to surpass the projected efficiency levels of HEI, along with other energy-efficient technologies like fluorescent, and have the additional benefits of long life and durability.

So there you have it: The century-old bulb that anchored the GE brand and made GE a global leader in lighting is, after one last gasp in 2007, officially dead.


19 thoughts on “GE suspends development of “high-efficiency incandescent””

  1. It’s an interesting thought- think of Edison’s era- the industrial revolution in full swing, accented by brute-force manufacturing and brute-force invention (how many hundreds of attempts did Edison try before finding the right combination for the light bulb?), with little thought to economy of resources or energy. We have 150 years of this type of mentality, and that type of inertia is hard to stop and redirect. Yet we see a story like this, on GE moving in a new direction, that gives some hope that other manufacturers will take a similar course. Perhaps a world of renewable energy, intelligent conservation, and polution-free transportation is not so far off as it seems sometimes. Here’s hoping;-)

  2. [q](how many hundreds of attempts did Edison try before finding the right combination for the light bulb?)[/q]

    GAAAAAAAAAAH! Edison *did not* invent the lightbulb (he bought the patent)! Edison didn’t invent much of anything. He was a *marketer*, not an inventor. And he was a genius of a marketer. But FFS stop trying to say that the man was an inventor, cause he wasn’t. Businessman, not inventor.

  3. I think it’s fair to call it the Edison-bulb, even if he didn’t invent the basic technology behind it. But yes, he didn’t invent it — though he refined it in form so that it could be successfully mass-produced.

  4. Edision didn’t invent the light-bulb? Edision only invented the version that was mas produced?

    Come on folks. Edision invented the light bulb that we all use today. Period. I hate all this revionist crap. You might as well say that Einstein invented the solar cell since his paper published around 1911 proved the theory of it. That ignores all the work of the folks who put in the effort to make something that we can use. Other folks had the idea for hte light-bulb, fine, totally cool with that. They did not invent the light bulb since they couldn’t make one that we could buy.

  5. Edison did have some notable inventions, the phonograph for example. Many of his other “inventions” were refinements to existing concepts, what he did do was refine the incandescent light bulb to the point that it became a viable commercial product. In addition, it was Edison who recognized the need for an infrastructure to support the new lamps. He developed generating, distributing, metering, and switching equipment, the screw base lamp socket, all the other “stuff” necessary for the public to make use of his bulbs, he was one of the first to look at the system as a whole.

Comments are closed.