11 Interesting Facts About Neon Gas: Uses, Features & Benefits

From the cosmic confines to the heart of bustling cities, the radiant touch of Neon has left an indelible impression on our World. Neon, which is derived from the Greek word Neos, has a vibrant glow when used in a neon sign and under an electrical current – Neon has become a beacon of modernity. Let’s dive deep into some dazzling facts about this captivating element.

  • Neon is abundant in space but rare on Earth; only 1 part of every 65,000 in our atmosphere is Neon, and it is estimated that only 1,000 tons are produced yearly.
  • Neon was discovered in 1898 and first harnessed for neon signage in 1902
  • Traditional neon-gassed signs are only capable of glowing in a red-orange color
  • Neon is a noble gas and is very expensive to purchase
  • Neon is 3x colder than liquid nitrogen and 40x colder than liquid helium, making it useful for cryogenics
  • Due to the nature of neon gas, it can cut through fog better than any other form of lighting – making it very useful for large boats and on airport runways

The Grand Entry of Neon

Neon is a noble gas (inert gas) that graced our World towards the end of the 19th century, in the year 1898, to be precise. Its discovery can be credited to two British scientists, Sir William Ramsay and Morris W. Travers, at University College London. Their innovative approach involved cooling air into a liquid form, creating liquid air, and then gradually warming it to collect the gases that vaporized. This experimental endeavor resulted in the revelation of three new gases: krypton, Neon, and xenon. However, Neon, found between helium and argon, stole the limelight.

Neon’s Stellar Connection

Our starry skies hold a cosmic secret – they are the celestial factories of Neon. Neon gas is forged during the alpha process in stars when helium and oxygen undergo fusion. Yet, it mandates a star with a mass at least eight times that of our sun to give birth to neon gas. So, when you gaze at the stars, remember: you are looking at Neon’s birthplace.

The Dawn of Neon Lighting

The year 1902 marked a significant milestone in the lighting world, all thanks to a French engineer named Georges Claude. Ingenious in his approach, Claude created the first neon light tubes by passing an electric current through the leftover Neon from his air liquefaction firm. His groundbreaking invention saw the light of the day at the 1910 Paris Motor Show. Although neon lighting didn’t catch on in household use, neon signs quickly gained popularity in advertising businesses due to their bright lights. Today, it’s hard to picture our cityscapes without Neon’s hypnotic glow – think of the Las Vegas strip with its vibrant, glowing signs!

Where does the glow come from?

Noble gases conduct electricity, which is exploited with neon advertising signs. A sealed glass tube, with a metal electrode at each end, is filled with Neon (ne, chemical element). An electrical current is passed through the electrode at one end, and the current reacts with the Neon, creating the reddish-orange glow that neon signs have made famous.

The True Colors of Neon Signs

Contrary to what the spectrum of neon signs might suggest, an authentic neon sign glows reddish-orange. Other colors are the handiwork of different noble gases present in the glass tubing or colored fluorescent lighting. So, remember: if it’s not reddish-orange, it’s not genuine Neon. LED Neon, on the other hand, has a far wider range of colors.

A traditional gas and glass neon sign is reddish-orange in color
Traditional gas and glass neon advertising signs are reddish-orange in color.

The Many Faces of Neon

Neon’s unique characteristics lend it versatility, which finds application in many uses. From television sets and use in cooling lasers to vacuum tubes and lightning arrestors, Neon is present in various aspects of our everyday lives. It’s surprising to know that an average American household contains nearly 10 liters of neon gas.

Neon’s Guiding Light in the Mist

One of the Neon’s most intriguing attributes is its capacity to cut through fog. Unlike other lights that can become obscured, Neon stands tall. This trait proves particularly useful in airports, where neon lights guide aircraft during foggy conditions.

The High Cost of Neon

Despite its cosmic abundance, Neon is a precious commodity here on Earth. Its scarcity in our atmosphere and the expenditure involved in its extraction make Neon more than 55 times pricier than liquid helium.

The Hidden Hazards of Neon Gas

Neon, despite its allure, isn’t entirely innocuous. Exposure to this gas can cause frostbite, and inhaling it excessively can lead to suffocation. While the enchanting glow of neon lights can captivate us, it’s wiser to leave the handling of this element to experts.

Neon’s Role in Cryogenics

Neon has a cooling capacity of three times that of liquid hydrogen and 40 times that of liquid helium. It has established itself as a valuable cryogenic refrigerant. Neon is utilized in cryonics, a process involving freezing corpses in anticipation of future medical advancements capable of reviving them.

Neon gas is common in cryogenics - freezing eggs and sperm for IVF
Neon gas is common in cryogenics – freezing eggs and sperm for IVF

Neon: A Stable Element

Neon belongs to the noble gases group, sharing the stage with other noble gases, such as helium, krypton, xenon, and argon. These elements are renowned for their stability and unreactivity, courtesy of their complete outer electron shells. With its 10 electrons, Neon is the second lightest among its noble gas counterparts. Neon has the name ne on the periodic table (which is its chemical element identifier).

Neon Gas’s Luminous Legacy

Since 1902, Neon has maintained that it is still one of the most important gases on Earth and in use by humans. The vibrant glow is a symbol of progress in human society. Be it in the form of eye-catching billboard advertisements or scientific advancements, the legacy of Neon still remains.

The Future of Neon

One thing is crystal clear: neon’s journey is far from finished. Its distinctive properties continue to fuel new innovations and applications. The future of Neon doesn’t just lie in gas neon signs; it has evolved to LED neon signs.

At Neon By Design, we channel Neon’s vibrant, inventive, and innovative spirit to our customers. Our dedication to design and customization ensures that each of our faux Neon or LED neon signs uniquely reflects our customers’ vision. Whether you aim to make a bold statement or add a dash of retro-futuristic charm to your space, we’re here to light the way.


  • How rare is neon gas?
    • Neon is abundant in space but rare on Earth; only 1 part of every 65,000 in our atmosphere is Neon, and it is estimated that only 1,000 tons are produced yearly.
  • When was neon gas discovered?
    • Neon was discovered by Sir William Ramsay and Morris W. Travers in 1898.
  • When was Neon first used in neon signs?
    • Neon was first harnessed for neon signage in 1902 at a French barbershop. The sign could only glow in a red-orange, as Neon by itself only glows this color.
  • Why is neon gas so expensive?
    • Neon gas is extremely expensive because it is needed and wanted in many industries and is rare in Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Why is Neon used in cryogenics?
    • Neon (and liquid Neon) is three times colder than liquid nitrogen and 40 times colder than liquid helium, making it useful for cryogenics.
  • Why do large shipping vessels use neon lights?
    • Due to its nature, Neon can cut through fog better than any other form of lighting, making it very useful for large boats and on airport runways.
  • What color are traditional neon signs?
    • Traditional neon signs are only capable of glowing in a red-orange color.
  • What are the neon uses in everyday life?
    • Neon is used in vacuum tube lighting (traditional glass and gas neon tube lights)
    • Neon is used in older television tubes (which are the older style of TV)
    • Neon is used in refrigerators in hospitals and medical facilities where the temperature is below -70c
    • 70% of all Neon produced is used in manufacturing the chips used in all electronic devices (like phones, computers, cars, TVs, and everything in between)
    • Neon is used in medical and LASIK lasers as a cooling mechanism (the lasers can get extremely hot)
    • Neon is used in manufacturing facilities for cutting machines needing cooling (again, the lasers in these machines can get very hot)
  • Is neon gas ne2 or ne?
    • Neon is a noble element; its atomic number is 10, and its element symbol is ne on the periodic table.
  • Is Neon a toxic gas?
    • Neon (ne) is a non-toxic element; it is an inert gas. Neon gas is present in the atmosphere in the air in about 18 parts per million. Pure Neon would not be toxic to humans if inhaled as a single breath or more. However, if Neon were present, then it would displace oxygen; therefore, if surrounded by only pure Neon, there would be no oxygen present, and as a consequence, a human would not be able to survive. An equivalent comparison is water – water is not toxic to humans, but if water is all you have around you, it is not conducive to human life (as we don’t have gills).
  • How is neon gas made?
    • Neon gas is drawn from liquid air distilled in a fractional distillation process. Activated charcoal removes other gases released in the distillation process and further refines and purifies the neon gas.
  • What is the melting point of Neon?
    • Neon (ne on the periodic table) has a melting point of -248.6°c or -411°F and a boiling point of -246.05°C or -410°F.
  • Is Neon bad for the environment?
    • Neon is already present in the atmosphere, and humans are not creating or reducing the amount of it – we harness its inert qualities to our advantage, like cooling. Neon is a non-toxic, inert gas.


Christopher is our main author, with over 10 years working with businesses and consulting online.  Christopher has a deep understanding of LED lights, LED neon flex, and neon signs and how they can be best used to help business, home, and event decor.

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