Neon: a gas from advertising signs
Facts about neon
One of the most inert elements glows with a red-orange color if you pass a high-voltage current through it!
How it was discovered
Neon was discovered in 1898 by the British scientists Sir William Ramsay and Morris Travers, by analyzing the color spectrum emitted by the element when it was heated. Ramsay and Travers cooled air until it became liquid, then heated and collected the gases which evaporated. They also isolated nitrogen, oxygen and argon. But another gas remained which gave an unusual spectrum.Ramsay’s son Willy suggested naming the new element novium (Latin for new), but his father decided that the Greek word, neos, would sound better, and so the element became known as neon.
Neon is the fifth most common element in the Universe, but on Earth it is the rarest of all the stable elements! The largest amount of it is found in the atmosphere – 1m³ of air contains around 18.2 cm³ of neon. Neon has also been found in volcanic fumaroles – in 1909 the French chemist Armand Gautier detected neon in gases emitted from the fumaroles of Mount Vesuvius.
How it is applied
Neon is used in vacuum tubes, high-voltage indicators, television tubes and helium-neon lasers. Liquid neon can be used as a cooling agent (the boiling temperature of neon is 27.104 K or -246.046 °C), but because of its rarity, liquid neon can cost up to 55 times more than liquid helium. The temperature of the triple point of neon (24.5561 K) is one of the reference points for the ITS-90 temperature scale. But the most widespread use of neon is in neon signs (which is where they get their name). However, nowadays the term “neon sign” is also used for signs which use other inert gases besides neon.