The element neon is represented by the symbol 'Ne'. It is an inert gas with atomic number 10. There are three stable isotopes (atoms having same atomic number and different atomic weights) of neon with atomic weights 20, 21, and 22. Besides this, neon element has twelve other unstable radioactive isotopes. It is colorless and exist in the gaseous state in room temperature. Due to its light-weight and inert noble gas properties, neon occurs rarely on the Earth. In fact, it is present in trace amounts (0.0018 percent) in atmospheric air. For industrial applications, neon is obtained from air.
Quick Facts about Neon
- The term neon is coined from the Greek word neos which means new.
- Neon is the fifth most abundant chemical element in the universal scale.
- Amongst the noble gases, neon stood second as the lightest gas, next to helium.
- The melting point of neon is -248.59 °C, whereas its boiling point is -246.08 °C.
- The triple point of neon is -249 °C or 24.57 K, meaning all the three phases of neon (gas, liquid, and solid) coexist at this temperature.
- In nature, it exhibits a cubic crystal structure.
- Neon is discovered by Sir William Ramsay and Morris M. Travers in 1898.
- For extraction of neon, atmospheric air is liquefied first, which is then followed by fractional distillation technique.
- It is believed that neon reacts with fluorine to form compounds.
- Neon gas forms an unstable hydrate, when reacts with water.
- Liquid neon is more compact and less expensive in comparison to liquid helium.
- Inhalation of neon gas can cause supersaturation of air, resulting in suffocation.
- Volcanic eruptions contain high amounts of neon gases.
Important Uses of Neon
Unlike other inert gases, neon discharges electricity even at normal current and voltages. Neon gas, filled in a tube, produces a bright orange-red colored light, when electric current is passed through the tube under a low pressure condition. Other gases can be used to get varied colors.
The characteristic discharge property of neon is used in fluorescent lamps, neon glow lamps (or simply neon lamps), and various other lighting systems. Such lamps can be operated even at low voltages. Due to its wide applications in outdoor advertising displays and lamps, neon is also referred to as fill gas.
If mercury is added in trace quantities, the orange-red light turns into a brilliant blue color. By changing the composition of neon and mercury, various color shades of light can be created. Such lighting effects are extensively used in the interior designing of house and/or landscaping.
One of the major applications of neon gas is in the advertising signs and/or displays, also called neon signs. Operating at high voltages (2 kilovolts and more), neon signs were discovered for the first time in early 20th century. Since then, this inert gas has been used in manufacturing advertising signs worldwide.
Neon light has the ability to penetrate fog, in which other lights are impossible to detect. Hence it forms a valuable lighting system in the extreme cold climatic regions. This property of neon light is also applied in airplane or aircraft beacons.
Neon serves as a potential cryogenic refrigerant in the liquid state. According to chemical studies, it is revealed that the per unit volume of liquid neon has 40 times refrigerating capacity than that of liquid helium and three times than liquid hydrogen. In simpler terms, the latent heat of vaporization of neon is three times more than that of hydrogen and 40 times than that of helium.
In combination with helium gas, neon is used to make neon-helium lasers. While conducting the researches for atomic particles, neon gas is used in trace amounts for preparing the spark chamber mixtures. Some other neon uses include lightning arrestors, gaseous conduction lamps, wave meter tubes, television tubes, vacuum tubes, and high-voltage testers.