Neon Signs and How They Work
By Michelle S.
2011

Neon is a colorless odorless gas that is lighter than air and found in the earth’s atmosphere. Today neon is mainly used in signs, but also many daily items. Just think of Las Vegas for example, all the flashing signs-neon. Ever wondered how they worked? Now you can find out!
Georges Claude
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Georges Claude
In about 1910 the French physicist Georges Claude invented a discharge lamp that used neon gas, which gave off a colorful red light. The value of neonlights for advertising purposes was quickly recognized. Soon neon signs made of glass tubes bent to form words and designs decorated the outsides of commercial buildings in cities throughout the world. Las Vegas has so many neon signs now, that there is almost 15,000 miles worth in neon gas. That’s almost half of the world’s radius!

Colors
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Neon Sign
Not all neon signs just have neon gas. Most signs have mixed gases to create different colors, like helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, and radon. These gases surround the air we breathe. They are 1% of every breath. When electric power is applied to the gas, the gas creates power and a current flows through it, makes it give off a certain light. Neon makes red, argon and neon make green, argon and mercury make yellow and argon and xenon make violet. These are just some of the basic mixes of gases to make colors.
At the end of each tube on a neon sign, there is an electrode. An electrode is a part in an electrical device that sends the electricity (up to 15,000 bolts) through the object. As you plug in the sign into the wall the electricity runs through the tube. The neon ions in the sign, moves in the same direction as the electricity does. Neon atoms and ion collision generates energy which causes the neon to give off red light.
Take a look at my diagrams below. It will show you step by step of how neon works.7
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Neon Ions and Atoms Moving throuh the tube
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Step by Step of How the Neon Sign Works


Glossary
Electron- A conductor through which electricity enters or leaves an object, substance, or region
Atom- The basic unit of a chemical element
Ion- An atom or molecule with a net electric charge due to the loss or gain of one or more electrons
Discharge Lamp- A lamp in which the light is produced by a discharge tube

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