We all know neon as the bright light that marks shops and sign boards in our cities; but neon is actually an inert chemical element that is grouped with other similar ones called the “noble gases”. For those interested in the basics – it is represented by the symbol ‘Ne’ and has been allocated the atomic number ‘10’; and appears with other noble gases on the right-most side of our Periodic tables.
Considered one of the most non-reactive chemical elements, neon is also odorless and colorless. Did you know that neon has only two-third the density of air? It is also the second lightest gas after helium. It is one of the few gas elements that does not form chemical compounds. Besides being used for making neon lights, it is also used along with helium for making gas lasers, television tubes, lightning arrestors, wave meter tubes, and high voltage indicators. Neon is also used, in its liquid form, in refrigerators as a cryogenic refrigerant.
Let’s look at some more interesting facts!
This chemical element was discovered by the pair – Sir William Ramsay and Morris W. Travers, two British chemists, in the year 1898. This was the third gas they discovered, along with krypton and xenon, when they were studying liquid air by evaporating it to alienate the gases in it.
Although neon is abundant in our universe – it is the fifth most commonly found element after hydrogen, helium, oxygen, and carbon; it is rare in Earth’s atmosphere. It makes up only 0.0018% in our atmosphere.
Do you know that the word “neon” is derived from the Greek word “neos” that means ‘new’? And in its stable isotope form, this chemical is produced within stars. Now, we know where our stars get their twinkle from!
Neon lights are created by charging the gas with electricity, which causes the well-known orange-red glow! Neon lights were created by a French engineer, Georges Claude in 1902, when he tried to create neon tubes for indoor lighting. But the color was not conducive for indoor lighting and it was not a successful product in the market. However, in 1912, his company started selling it as lighting for advertising signs; and thus was born, the predecessor of today’s neon lights!
Neon is capable of creating only the orange-red glow in lights; other colors are created by using other noble gases. However, all such lights are generally referred to as neon lights!
Since neon is a rare gas in our atmosphere, it is quite an expensive product on our planet – both, in its liquid and gaseous forms. It is costs more than 55 times that of liquid helium!
Some people believe that neon lights are harmful and that they contain a lot of mercury; again, a highly poisonous substance. The fact is neon is an inert gas that does not react. Moreover, the mercury content in a neon light is the same as that contained in our regular fluorescent light!
Neon is a rare element in our atmosphere and it is obtained by liquefaction of air and then using a fractional distillation process to separate this gas.
Neon lights entered the US market in 1923 when the first neon lights were put up by a Packard car dealership in Los Angeles. It consisted of two large neon signs.
Did you know that there is a “Neon” Museum in Las Vegas? There is also an outdoor “Neon Boneyard” in this museum that exhibits all defunct Vegas signs from 1930 onwards.