This New Tungsten Light Beats LED Efficiency by 128%!

by Bret Hoy2 Comments

At the end of the 19th century and in the first few years of the 20th century, the world was totally changed with the advent of the incandescent lightbulb. Let’s be honest, it’s impossible to understate the amount through which this invention changed the world. It changed the way we did business, our sleeping patterns and allowed us to be far more productive than at any time in the past.

Fast forward a few years, and we see the tungsten bulb hit markets. The efficiency of these bulbs have increased with each new advancement in lighting technology, but never since their original invention has their been such a gigantic leap in efficiency with a bulb.

Researchers at MIT claim to have created an Incandescent Tungsten bulb that can reach efficiency of up to 40% or 275 lm/W. This is a 128% increase over solid state LED’s.

Just when we figured that the wave of the future would be LED’s, these scientists have given us a big reason to believe that might not be the case. While I can’t say that I love using tungsten or HMI lights because of their bulk, weight and heat, you can’t argue with 275 lm/W.

This article from Cinema5D goes into greater detail about efficiency ratings, CRI and the types of light available. It’s amazing to see that a century after their inception, LED’s, Fluorescent and HMI’s can’t hold a candle to Tungsten.

New Tungsten Lighting Beats LED Efficiency by up to 128%

Via cinema5D:

Engineers at MIT have shown a promising new Tungsten lighting technology which could allow the good old incandescent filament bulb to beat out LED’s in efficiency in the near future.

Incandescent bulbs have powered film lighting for… well, pretty much forever.

Thomas Edison and Joseph Swan

While many quite rightly associate Thomas Edison with the incandescent light bulb, its invention is actually attributed to a British physicist and chemist named Joseph Swan. In 1880, Joseph Swan received a patent for a method of treating a cotton thread to produce a filament—improving upon all earlier attempts. His house was the first in the world to be lit by a lightbulb!



The first tungsten filament bulbs were marketed in 1904 and various improvements were made throughout the 1920s and 30s. By the 1960s the efficiency of commercial tungsten filament bulbs had reached a plateau of around 2.5%, producing about 17 lm/W (lumens per Watt). Tungsten halogen bulbs, which use a low-pressure halogen gas in the bulb to allow evaporated tungsten metal to be redeposited back onto the filament, reach higher efficiencies of 3.5% or up to 24 lm/W.

HMI lighting (Hydrargyrum medium-arc iodide lamp) achieves large gains on tungsten-halogen, pushing efficiencies of between 12% and 16% or 85-108 lm/W.

Read this article on cinema5D “New Tungsten Lighting Beats LED Efficiency by up to 128%”

Source: MIT

(cover photo credit: snap from cinema5D)


  1. Swan did beat Edison — but his lamps used expensive platinum filaments.
    I’m curious as to how a tungsten lamp can operate at such high efficiencies, without a great increase in operating temperature.

  2. OK, so the new bulb is efficient on a per watt basis.  That’s nice but I’d hardly be heralding the death of the LED in video lighting.  First, what about bulb life. Incandescents usually last 1,000 to 2,000 hours. LEDs last 20,000 to 50,000. Second, in video production I care much more about size of the fixture and heat. Right now when I use an Arri 650w light, I must put a minimum small Chimera on it to soften it enough so I don’t have harsh, film noir shadows. Then, I have a big light set-up that gets in everyone’s way, especially in tight shoot locations and after the shot, we can’t touch the light for quite awhile because it’s too hot. That makes it tough to move fast. I have the burn scars to prove it!  Sure the CRI on LEDs does not compare to the tungsten bulb but it is improving. On top of all that, the extremely heavy light kit full of Arris is killing my 62 year old back.  I’ll take a much lighter LED kit any day if all I’m giving up is a efficiency.  It’s also worth it since I can save the money on going to a chiropractor!!!

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