Interesting Facts about Neon

A p-block member of the periodic table, neon is much more than the gas used in signs. Read on to learn some cool interesting facts about this element.
Interesting and chemicals are 2 words, which are very rarely used together. But aside from the bare chemical properties, there are so many interesting facts to learn about different elements. Did you know, that Helium is less dense than air, so when you inhale it, it changes the timbre of your voice? Or that the element Tellurium can give you garlic breath? An element's properties and occurrence offer a fascinating view into the element itself. In this article, we look at some interesting facts about Neon, the element which is responsible for those bright, red signs.

Fact File on Neon
  • Symbol: Ne
  • Atomic Number: 10
  • Atomic Weight: 20.1797
  • Number of Protons/Electrons: 10
  • Number of Neutrons: 10
  • Density: 0.9 g/l
  • Melting Point: - 248.67°C (24.56 K, - 415.46°F)
  • Boiling Point: - 246.048°C (27.07 K, - 410.94°F)
  • Electronic Configuration: [He]2s22p6
  • Gas Phase: Monatomic
  • Magnetic Type: Diamagnetic
  • No of Isotopes: 3 stable isotopes
Chemical Properties of Neon
  • Neon is the fourth most abundant element in the universe.
  • Neon's occurrence in the Earth's atmosphere is 0.0018%.
  • Neon's light weight and chemical inertness allow the gas to escape from condensing gas and clouds, which would trap it on Earth.
  • Neon is a noble gas and almost never reacts with the other elements. However, it does form some unstable hydrates which makes it slightly reactive. Also, optical and mass spectroscopy have uncovered the presence of the ions: Ne+, (NeAr)+, (NeH)+, (HeNe)+. It may also form some compounds with the most reactive element Flourine.
  • The word 'Neon' comes from the Greek word neos, which means "new one".
  • Neon is located in period 2 and group 18 of the Periodic table.
  • It is the 2nd lightest inert gas after helium.
  • It has 40 times the refrigerating capacity of liquid helium and three times, that of liquid hydrogen.
  • Neon's configuration is very stable, so it does not easily form compounds with other elements.
  • It is tasteless and odorless.
  • It is obtained from the liquefaction and separation of air by a process called fractional distillation. It takes 88,000 lbs of liquefied air just to get 1 lb of neon.
What is Neon Used For?
  • Neon gas in a light, can last for 15 years, without going off.
  • When excited electrically, it gives off a bright red color, but the gas itself is colorless.
  • Sir William Ramsay and Morris M.Travers discovered neon, while studying liquid air, in 1898.
  • One quart of neon can light up 200 - 300 feet of glass tubing.
  • Georges Claude, a French engineer, unveiled the first neon sign, in 1910, at the Paris Motor Show.
  • The first American company to use a neon sign, was the Packard Agency in 1922.
  • Neon is used to make advertising signs, high-voltage indicators, wavemeter tubes, television tubes and lightning arrestors. When liquefied, it is used as a cryogenic refrigerant.
  • While plastic and other materials have been used to contain Neon gas, the only material that can hold the gas, but let light escape is glass.
  • Neon is used in signs for a bright reddish orange light. All other colors are due to other noble gases or fluorescent lighting.
  • Neon light can pass through fog and hence is used extensively at the airports, in aircraft and in cold areas.
  • Neon signs are popular as business signs.
Effect of Neon in the Air
  • Neon is completely non-toxic and chemically inert, so it poses no threat to the environment.
  • It is an asphyxiant gas, which means, if inhaled in excess, it can deplete oxygen content in the body and can cause suffocation, and even death.
  • In a confined area, if neon comes into contact with eyes or skin, it can cause frostbite.
While the above facts show few uses of the element, the impact that neon has on our lives should not be underestimated. The neon sign is one of the best (and brightest) signs in advertising history. Places like Las Vegas and New York's Time Square wouldn't be the hippest and famous tourist destinations today, if not for the neon sign. And it makes a much cheaper and better refrigerant, than liquid hydrogen. So whether you are a chemistry geek or just trying to pass off as one, ace your chem tests by brushing up on the elements and don't forget neon!