Neon is represented by the symbol “Ne.” It is an inert gas that has an atomic number of 10, and it possesses three stable isotopes. Neon is a colourless gas that is lightweight and occurs rarely on Earth, hence its expensive price. Interestingly enough, volcanic eruptions have high amounts of neon gasses. For industrial applications, neon is obtained from the air.
What Is Neon?
Neon comes from the word “neos,” Greek for new. It is the second-lightest gas, after helium, and was discovered by Sir William Ramsay and Morris M. Travers in 1898. In its liquid state, it is more compact and less expensive compared to helium.
The very common neon open sign
Image attributed to Wikimedia commons Neon internet café open
Uses of Neon
Contrary to popular belief, neon has other uses aside from neon signs, though that is its most popular use. When neon gas is filled in a tube, it produces a red-orange colour, but when mixed with other gases, other colours are produced. Neon lamps can be easily operated, even at low voltages. Neon is sometimes called fill gas.
Mercury is one of the most common gasses added to neon to produce various colours. One of the major applications of neon is in the advertising industry. Everywhere you go today, you will see large neon signs advertising a variety of products. You may also see a small neon open sign at the entrance of your favourite store.
Neon light has the ability to penetrate fog, and it can be seen at great distances. This is why it is very popular in advertising. It is also used by the airline industry because it works even in extreme climatic conditions.
Neon is also used as a cryogenic refrigerant when in its liquid state. According to scientific studies, it has 40 times more refrigerating capacity compared to liquid helium. It is also three times better than hydrogen.
When combined with helium, neon is used to make HeNe lasers, or helium-neon lasers. This is a laser which is used in various applications in industrial settings. They are used to prepare spark chamber mixtures, light arrestors, television tubes, high-voltage testers, and conduction lamps.
Indeed, neon is one of the most important gasses ever discovered. It is used widely today in a wide variety of applications, and it continues to benefit humankind in so many ways.
Care for Neon Signs
Since neon is largely used by the advertising industry, it is only proper to teach people how to handle and care for their neon signs properly. Maintenance is important if you wish your neon sign to last for years to come.
The bulbs must be handled with extreme care because they can easily break. Cleaning is simple. Just unplug the sign and brush it with a small nylon brush to eliminate dust and dirt. Be very careful when cleaning the area with the wires, because if you accidentally unplug any of them your neon sign might not light up any more.
If your sign is placed in a bar where people smoke regularly, nicotine stains may be common. Use an ammonia-based cleaner, which is safe for glass, to clean the sign and then wipe it with a soft, dry cloth.