Characteristics of neon
Neon is the element of the periodic table of symbol Ne, and atomic number 10. This means that its nucleus is formed by 10 protons (apart from neutrons) with 10 electrons orbiting them. Neon is a noble gas, and it is found in minute quantities in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Just like helium, neon becomes liquid at very low temperatures. In standard conditions, neon is found in its liquid state between the small range of temperatures of -245.9ºC and -248.6ºC. Being a chemically inert element, neon doesn’t form stable bonds with any other element.
Neon is created in stars because its production requires huge quantities of energy, a phenomenon that takes place by fusing helium and oxygen. Despite being the fifth more common element in the universe, the quantity of neon in the Earth’s atmosphere is incredibly small. The volume of neon in the atmosphere is only 0.0018%. Consequently, neon is relatively expensive, as it is scarce and can only be extracted from the atmosphere.
- Neon is widely used in the production of advertising signs due to its characteristic red and orange colour. Other colours in those signs are composed of different gases to give a variety of colours.
- Liquid neon is also used as a cryogenic refrigerant on an industrial scale.
- This element is also used in the manufacturing of helium-neon lasers (made by combining helium with neon).
- Neon lights are equally used in botanical gardens and greenhouses in order to increase the chlorophyll content in plants.
Neon was discovered in 1898 in London, by the English chemists Morris W. Travers and Sir William Ramsay. Ramsay discovered this element when he cooled a sample of air until it became liquid, to afterwards capture the emitted gases while it was heated up again. Neon stood out due to the intense red light it emitted by being exposed to electric energy.
Neon was quickly identified as a new element. The name neon comes from the Greek “neos”, meaning “new”. In a matter of years, industrial quantities of neon were produced through the liquefaction of air, and most of it was destined to produce advertising signs.