Why does a light bulb burn out?

Michael J. McKelvy, P. Mitan, Kirsten Hintze, Eric Patrick, K. Allagadda, B. L. Ramakrishna, Carrie Denny, Brandt Pryor, Andrew Chizmeshya, Vincent Pizziconi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The online educational module "Why Does a Light Bulb Burn Out?" is an inquiry-based introduction to the concepts of materials and material properties through the interactive exploration of the life of the incandescent light bulb that students use every day. The module offers an exploration of the history of the light bulb, its components, and important filament properties. Students discover the relationship between temperature and incandescence, along with electrical power and resistance through interactive Java applets. Then students "invent" their own filaments through virtual temperature, performance and longevity tests of a variety of candidate materials. Next, students follow the filament aging process using scanning-electron/atomic-force microscopy images. The module culminates in students designing their own materials experiments using SPM Live! online at http://invsee.asu.edu. Student evaluations indicate students both enjoy and learn effectively using the module.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMaterials Science and Engineering Education in the New Millenium
Number of pages6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2001
Event2000 MRS Spring Meeting - San Francisco, CA, United States
Duration: Apr 24 2000Apr 28 2000

Publication series

NameMaterials Research Society Symposium Proceedings
ISSN (Print)0272-9172


Other2000 MRS Spring Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco, CA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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