• FA-109639 © Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Everyday Life
Building Systems and Services
Everyday Life - directions for use
1900 - 1909

Gas incandescent light bulb “Auer light”, around 1905

Gas versus electricity: Carl Auer von Welsbach’s gas incandescent light provided competition to Thomas A. Edison’s electric light. It was brighter than electric light, at reduced gas consumption.

In 1886, Carl Auer von Welsbach, chemist and researcher in Vienna, patented the gas light he had invented. He refined the hitherto common open gas flame with a so-called “gas mantle”, a net of rare earth metals on a textile fabric. The fire caused the net to glow white and achieved an intense brightness at lower gas consumption. Its success made it difficult for Thomas Edison’s new electric light to compete. The gas supply was already installed and, in addition, the “Auer light” was brighter and cheaper. Branches were established in many countries and Auer enterprises sold the gas incandescent light throughout the world.

After a three-year trial period, the company Graetz in Berlin managed to launch a burner for suspended gas light in 1903. This “Graetz light” was an improvement to the “Auer light”, as it brought further savings of up to 40 % gas and a more favourable light distribution. The gas, at the time still a “city gas” made from the carbonisation of coal, is mixed with air (oxygen) in a blast pipe and distributed with a slight pressure on the net of the suspended “gas mantle” which glows white after combustion and shines brightly.

Around the same time, Carl Auer von Welsbach managed to significantly improve electric light. In 1899, he developed an electric light bulb with an osmium filament which is considered to be the forerunner of the later globally successful “metal filament light bulbs”.

Inv.Nr. 17236/1
Member of