What You Didn’t Know About Neon

We are all familiar with neon in its most widely used form, neon signs. However, what do we really know about it? It is the purpose of this article to present a wider view of neon through some commonly asked questions about neon, neon signs, and other forms of neon usage that are not so well known.

Let’s start with a question that voices a safety concern.

Does neon get hot and can I get burned if I touch it?

No, to both parts. The lit neon tubing is cool to the touch. It does not give off heat in any way. The transformer does give off some slight heat, but this is minimal and safe.

What is a transformer?

A transformer is a device used to step up, or step down, or transform voltages by magnetic means.

How long will a neon sign last?

Many factors are involved in the life span of a luminous tube, including the environment in which it is placed, the quality of the power feeding the transformer, quality of installation, and acts of GOD(lightning, storms,.etc.). Luminous tubes may last for decades in the perfect environment, but in more realistic terms most luminous tube signage should last from eight to fifteen years.

Can neon tubes be repaired?

Yes, neon tubing can be repaired and/or recharged.

Are the gases in neon tubes dangerous?

Neon and argon are inert gases and are not, by themselves. a threat to persons or the environment. Argon/mercury filled tubing contains a small amount of mercury, which creates no danger as long as the tubing is intact. EPA approved disposal methods must be followed for the disposal of argon/mercury filled tubing. You should check with the Environmental Protection Agency on the proper disposal of tubing containing mercury.

How does a new neon tube produce light?

The idea behind a neon light is easy to understand. Inside the glass tube there is a gas like neon, argon. or krypton which is kept at low pressure. Both ends of the tube have metal electrodes. When a high voltage is applied to the electrodes the neon gas ignites, and electrons flow through the gas. These electrons activate the neon atoms and cause them to emit light that we can see. Neon emits red light when energized in this way. Other gases emit other colors.

How is a neon tube lighted?

A tube of glass, containing a small amount of neon(or other inert gas) is sealed tight with electrodes at each end. An electric arc is struck through the tube using a transformer to activate the molecules causing them to emit light.

What are some of the other uses of neon besides neon signs and neon lighting?

It is used in vacuum tubes, television tubes, high voltage indicators, lightning arrestors(devices that protect pieces of electrical equipment from damages by lightning or some other electrical source by diverting the electricity to the ground), and water meter tubes. Neon, combined with helium, makes a gas laser. Neon is also used in the medical world. Liquefied is used as a cryogenic refrigerant in certain cases, such as when the use of the more expensive liquid helium can be avoided. Ionized neon can serve as a propellant in space, when used with an Ion Engine. Neon can also be used as a chemical weapon, which is not done because it is highly toxic. Neon lighting is used to enhance home and business decor. It is even used on the inside and outside of cars and trucks. It is widely used in theme parks, amusement places, and arcades(in electronic games that test in dealing with real and imaginary adventurous and dangerous situations.

What is neon?

Neon is an element that is found in gaseous form in the atmosphere, but it is rare on Earth. However, it is abundant in the universe. In fact, it ranks fifth on the list of the most abundant elements in the universe.

How is neon made into usable form?

Since neon is gaseous it takes 88,000 pounds of liquefied air, which when processed yields one pound of neon.

How much does neon cost?

Pure neon costs $33. for 100 grams.

What is the unique characteristic of neon lighting that is not found in other forms of illuminated lighting?

Neon, unlike LED lighting for example, can be bent and twisted into any number of shapes and designs.

When was the first neon sign made?

The first neon sign was made in Paris in 1912 by Georges Claude. He had patented the neon light in 1910. The world’s first neon sign was placed in a Paris barbershop.

How and when did the first neon sign come to the US?

Earle Anthony, the owner of an auto dealership in Los Angeles brought two “Packard” neon signs in 1923 from Paris, which he purchased from Georges Claude. He reportedly paid $2,500. for them. Other sources say $5,000 and $24,000.

What cities have the largest displays of neon signage? Times Square in New York City and the Las Vegas Strip are often referred to as the world’s top showcases for neon signage. Each of these places has thousands of neon signs and receives millions of visitors annually. Las Vegas Strip signs last longer than their Times Square counterparts because casinos will always be there since that’s what makes Vegas.

Times Square is a location where businesses often change, thus causing a change in the neon signage. However, the amount of neon signage basically stays unchanged.

When did Russia get its first neon sign?

It was erected 198 in Puskin Square in Moscow and was an advertisement for a world-famous soft drink.

Are there cities that ban the use of. neon signs?

Yes, some US and foreign ban the use of neon signs for such reasons as appearance, energy conservation, and also ban those neon signs that have mercury.

What is the difference between the terms luminous tube and neon signs?

There is no difference between the two. They both mean the same thing and are used interchangeably.

What was did Las Vegas get its first neon sign and when was it installed?

The city’s first neon sign was a Oasis Caf home sign that was installed in 1929.

What was Times Square’s first neon sign and when was it installed?

It was the Willys-Overland sign and it was installed in 1924

How long is the operational life of a neon bulb?

The operational life of a neon bulb, according to some sources, usually ranges from 20,000 to 30.000 hours of useful life. It is not uncommon for a neon tube to operate for 80.000 hours or more.

How do you create the colors in neon?

There are methods available to obtain different colors with neon. The use of a different gas is the most basic way. When you use clear glass tubes it produces two colors that are practical-neon, which produces a bright red-orange, and when argon gas is combined with mercury vapor, produces a pale blue color. Straight argon(without the mercury vapor) is used it produces a faint purple, and krypton emits a very pale white.

Neither of these colors is bright enough to be used commercially. Colors can also be created by coating the in side of the glass tubes with phosphors. When argon and mercury are combined an ultraviolet light is emitted which causes the phosphors to glow, somewhat like a fluorescent light. Phosphor-coated tubes are available in a wide range of colors ranging from purple to green, plus warm and cool whites. In case a more saturated color is needed, tubes made of colored glass can be used. There are names like Bromo Blue and Ruby Red, for the rich colors that are emitted by these tubes. This type of glass commands a premium price since it is more difficult and costly to make.

Are neon signs dangerous?

Neon signs operate at a very high voltage, although with a very low current. If you received an accidental shock it wouldn’t be dangerous. Signs that are improperly wired can start a fire, but the same applies to any electrical device that is improperly wired.

What is a neon sign and how does it work?

A neon sign is a very simple device. It consists of a vacuum-tight glass tube that is fitted with an electrode at each end. The tube contains a small amount of rare gas. A high-voltage electrical power source is connected to the two electrodes. Turning on the current

makes the tube glow with a steady, piercing, light.

What is the major use of neon?

Neon signs for businesses. Neon signs that say “OPEN” let people know that the store is open and ready for business. This neon sign extends a personal welcome. People are usually in a hurry. A business logo neon sign draws almost instant attention from pedestrian or vehicular traffic. The warm colors of a neon sign are a subtle way to attract attention Store signs are geared for the potential customers on the street, who can be prompted into making a quick decision to enter a business. They may often mention price, which is an important consideration for prospective buyers. On our nation’s highways they display a welcome “Vacancy” to weary travelers. They also give quick notice that lottery tickets are sold in a store.

Who made the first neon wall clock?

The first neon wall clock was made in the 1930’s by the Electric Neon Clock Co. of Cleveland, Ohio. They produced neon clocks in different colors and came in many types, and they were extremely popular.

What and where is the world’s largest neon sign?

It is the Hilton Hotel sign on the world-famous Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada. The letters are 164 feet high and 29 feet high, and it has a total surface area of over 70,000 square feet. At a cost of approximately $9 million it could also be the world’s most expensive neon sign. Las Vegas is also home to the world famous iconic “WELCOME TO Fabulous LAS VEGAS NEVADA” neon sign.

Is it true that modern neon lights are made with plastic instead of glass?

Yes, plastic has been used to make neon tubes when it was discovered that plastic was better.

What are some of the newer uses that have been developed for neon?

Neon is now used in phones and cameras. A small amount of neon can be found in some fluorescent lights today. Neon, in the form of low power neon glow lamps, is used to show on/off settings and other functions in small appliances and electronic instrument panels. Many wall switches in homes are illuminated by neon. Computers, voltage regulators, and industrial equipment have also found a use for these small, lightweight, neon lamps. Now it is possible to produce more colors with neon gas. This is done by varying not only the gas filling but also the coating inside the tube and the tube material itself.

Is it true that the original neon light influenced fluorescent lighting development?

Yes, fluorescent lighting technology which was developed in the 1930’s owes its birth to the original neon light.

Could it be possible that neon lighting played a role in the development of color television?

Yes, this is not only possible but in fact true. At the first practical demonstration of color television in 1928 the light source at the receiver consisted of a neon tube for the color red plus mercury-vapor and helium discharge tubes for blue and green. Today’s color television owes its existence to the employment of neon lighting.

Is it true that modern neon lights are made with plastic instead of glass?

Yes, plastic has been used to make neon tubes when it was discovered that plastic was better.

What are some of the newer uses that have been developed for neon?

Neon is now used in phones and cameras. A small amount of neon can be found in some fluorescent lights today. Neon, in the form of low power neon glow lamps, is used to show on/off settings and other functions in small appliances and electronic instrument panels. Many wall switches in homes are illuminated by neon. Computers, voltage regulators, and industrial equipment have also found a use for these small, lightweight, neon lamps. Now it is possible to produce more colors with neon gas. This is done by varying not only the gas filling but also the coating inside the tube and the tube material itself.

Is it true that the original neon light influenced fluorescent lighting development?

Yes, fluorescent lighting technology which was developed in the 1930’s owes its birth to the original neon light.

Could it be possible that neon lighting played a role in the development of color television?

Yes, this is not only possible but in fact true. At the first practical demonstration of color television in 1928 the light source at the receiver consisted of a neon tube for the color red plus mercury-vapor and helium discharge tubes for blue and green. Today’s color television owes its existence to the employment of neon lighting.

When did the theory behind neon sign technology originate?

Surprisingly, this theory dates back to 1675, which is well before the age of electricity. The French astronomer, Jean Pichard, observed a faint glow in a mercury barometer(a barometer is a device used to measure atmospheric pressure). When the tube was shaken a glow called barometric light occurred, but the cause of the light(static electricity) was not understood at that time. Even though the cause of barometric light was not yet understood it was investigated. Later, when the principles of electricity were discovered scientists were able to move forward towards the invention of many forms of lighting.

However, it wasn’t until 1912 when Georges Claude made the world’s first neon sign, which was placed in a Paris barbershop. Then in 1923 Earle Anthony, the owner of an auto dealership in Los Angeles, purchased two “PACKARD” neon signs from Georges Claude and brought them to America. The price reportedly paid was quoted at $2,500., $5,000. or $24,000. according to various sources.

It is indeed strange that the theory of neon signs evolved at the time that it did(1675), and that the idea did not become a reality until 1912. when scientific knowledge had advanced to the point that a centuries old discovery was able to be put to use in a way to benefit mankind. Thanks Jean Pichard, Georges Claude, and let’s not forget Benjamin Franklin, who can add the discovery of electricity to his many other great accomplishments.

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