Neon is a chemical element which is a very common element in the universe, but is rare on Earth. It’s a colorless, inert noble gas that gives a distinct reddish-orange glow when used in either low-voltage neon glow lamps, in high-voltage discharge tubes or in neon advertising signs.
Inert gases tend to keep their molecular structure; however, with neon and other inert gases, they remain inert only in chemical reactions – but not in the glass tubes with electrodes like inside neon signs. This is because the electrodes in neon signs discharge voltage through the gas in the discharge tube. The voltage that goes through the gas will speed up any free electrons, which in turn builds the kinetic energy up inside the tube. When the kinetic energy is high enough, the neon atom becomes ionized.
During ionization, an electron either moves up the next electron orbit, or down to the next electron orbit. What ionization is doing is giving an inert gas a negative or positive charge. This creates a plasma that carries the electrical impulse from one end of the tube to the opposite end. This completes the electrical circuit..
So, where exactly does that glowing light come from? When the circuit is completed, the electrons that were “excited” fall back to their regular energy level, causing a photon to be emitted which creates that pretty glow. A photon is a light particle/wave and as long as the photon is within our visible light spectrum we are able to view it.
Neon signs come in multitudes of colors; however, neon doesn’t change color. So, how does this happen? What some people don’t know is that not all neon signs actually use inert gas. Some use Argon, Helium, and Xenon. When neon is heated properly with the description given above, it glows an orange-red color.
Say you wanted your sign to be a light blue color, use Mercury instead of Neon. Mix Argon and phosphor to get a bold yellow glow as argon is a frequently used element to give a very bold glow. White signs are made using Carbon dioxide and are generally mixed with other elements. Helium produces a bold gold glow and all of these elements and gases can be mixed to produce as many as 150 colors.
Whether you’re using your neon sign to tell people your business is open, your business name, or any other fun signs- they’ll be sure to grab your eye. Neon signs are very versatile and will definitely catch the attention of passersby.