Almost every city seems colourful in the evenings. It is not that someone has painted the city with particular colour but it is because of neon lights. Neon lights are being used almost everywhere. Have you ever wondered how do these neon lights glow in the dark?
Everyday Chemistry - What makes a Neon light Glow?
You must have seen restaurants and clubs use signboards on the entrances made of neon lights to attract attention. Have you ever wondered what neon is and how neon lights glow in the dark? Here are the answers...
What is Neon?
The word Neon finds its origin from the word neos, which means new gas. Neon is actually an inert gas just like helium and argon that provides a distinct colour and brightness.
A Scottish chemist William Ramsay along with Morris Travers first discovered neon gas in the year 1898. This gas is found naturally in our atmosphere, but in minute quantities.
The first tube made was known as the Geissler tube. This tube was made for scientific purpose only. The scientists used this tube to study the electrical discharges of different substances.
George Claude was the first person to make a neon sign. He combined electric gasses and passed a small amount of electric current through them and voila! it made discharges in different colours. He then realized that glass tubing that held the neo gas can be twisted in different positions. He made a sign to showcase in the Paris exposition that was held in the year 1910. Packard motors loved Claude's idea and immediately signed him on for thousands of dollars. This was the beginning of neon signs.
How do Neon signs work?
Neon being an inert gas can be pumped in a sealed tube. Once in, it will start drifting freely. When an electric current is passed through the tube, it passes through the neon with the help of kinetic energy. The electrical current stimulates atoms present in the neon molecules. Electrons are then released into the gas. The ions and electrons spread throughout the neon carrying charge from one end of the tube to another thereby lighting the entire tube.
The tubes used contain different colours and hence the light emitted is colourful and attractive in nature.
Neon signs are the best way to advertise. They are not very expensive but are very effective. Starting with a simple electrical discharge study, neon signs have become a million dollar commercial business today.