|What is Neon?
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Neon Gas is a natural
occurring gas. By applying direct current + and - high
voltage to the electrode ends of a neon tube, causes the atoms to race to opposite ends,
the positive charge attracts to the negative electrode and the negative
charge to the positive electrode. When the atoms collide on their
journey to the electrode ends the collision give off light.
Even static electricity will cause the excitement of the atoms
and will produce light momentarily. For example: a feather
duster brushing across a neon tube back and forth.
Neon gas is reddish orange in colour and is used
primarily for the colours red orange, pink and purple. Another gas Argon mixed with
mercury gives off the colour light blue and
is primarily used for the colours white, blue,
purple, yellow, pink and green.
This tube is specially filled with glass beads giving off a moving
lava or lightning effect because of the atoms trying to find the shortest path to the
The concept behind neon signs was first conceived in 1675, when the
French astronomer Jean Picard observed a faint glow in a mercury barometer tube (a
barometer is a device used to measure atmospheric pressure, there are two main types of
barometers: mercury and aneroid.) When the tube was shaken a glow called barometric light
occurred, but the cause of the light (static electricity) was not then understood. Side
notes: Jean Picard is better know as the astronomer who first accurately measured the
length of a degree of a meridian (longitude line) and from that computed the size of the
Earth. The barometer was invented by Evangelista Torricelli in 1643.
Even though barometric light was not understood, it was investigated and as we started to
understand the principles of electricity, inventors and scientist moved forward towards
the invention of various forms of lighting. By 1855 we had the geissler tube (named after
Heinrich Geissler a german glassblower) this was used to place gas at low pressure and
then apply an electrical voltage, the result was that the gas glowed and from the geissler
tube many inventions including "lamps" were developed. Since electrical
generators had been invented by this time researchers did not have to rely on static
electricity and many people experimented with applying electric power to tubes of gas, the
result was the invention of several forms of electric discharge lamps or vapor lamps, and
from 1900 on many were in use in Europe and the United States. Simply defined the electric
discharge lamp is a lighting device consisting of a transparent container within which a
gas is energized by an applied voltage and thereby made to glow.
The French engineer, chemist, and inventor Georges Claude (b. Sept. 24, 1870, d. May 23,
1960), was the first to apply an electrical discharge to a sealed tube of neon gas, around
1902 and make a neon lamp. The word neon comes from the Greek "neos," meaning
"The New Gas." The first public display of the neon lamp was made by Georges
Claude on December 11, 1910 in Paris. In 1923, Georges Claude, and his French company
Claude Neon, introduced neon signs to the United States by selling two signs to a Packard
car dealership in Los Angeles. The two signs that read "Packard." were purchased
by Earle C. Anthony for $24,000. Neon lighting quickly became a popular fixture in outdoor
advertising, visible even in daylight, people would stop and stare at the first neon signs
dubbed "liquid fire."
Making A Neon Sign - Making Neon Demo
Hollow glass rods used to make neon lamps come in 4-ft lengths, to shape the rods, the
glass is heated by a blended flame (lit gas and forced air.) The temperature measures
approximately 800 degrees F, the forced air the is necessary to achieve such a heat..
The rod is scored (partial cut) at the needed length with a file and then pulled apart
inside the flame. Then the artisan creates
the angle and curve combinations for the tubing in reverse, all work on a neon lamp or
sign must be in reverse because all the plugs and electrical connections are in the back.
When the design is completed, gas is pumped into the tubing and then electrified.
Red was the first neon color in use, Neon gas glows with its characteristic red light even
at atmospheric pressure. There are now more than 150 neon colors possible by combining
different gases like Argon, Krypton, Xenon and Helium.
One of the biggest differences between old and modern neon is the means of generating
electricity. Original neon used heavy transformers made from wrapped copper wire coiled
around an iron core. The new neon signs, use lightweight transistorized transformers.