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In a neon sign, electrodes on each end of a glass tube filled with neon or argon gas are connected to alternating current. As any trip to Las Vegas or Times Square in New York City will reveal, neon signs aren't only orange and blue, of course.
Though electrodes and glass tubes come prefabricated, neon lighting is still a handmade art.
The precursor to today's neon lights was invented in 1855, when German physicist Heinrich Geissler began experimenting with sealing gases, such as mercury vapor, in vacuum tubes and exposing them to electricity to create a glow. In liquid form, neon has three times the refrigerating capacity of liquid hydrogen and 40 times that of liquid helium, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry.
See hundreds of images of neon signs and find technical information for making neon signs at the Neon Library.
Learn more about the properties and uses of neon from the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

For the science geek in everyone, Live Science offers a fascinating window into the natural and technological world, delivering comprehensive and compelling news and analysis on everything from dinosaur discoveries, archaeological finds and amazing animals to health, innovation and wearable technology. The element Neon and the Periodic TableFind out more facts about Neon on the Periodic Table which arranges every chemical element according to its atomic number, as based on the periodic law, so that chemical elements with similar properties are in the same column. Neon is one of six elements, found in the rightmost column of the Periodic Table, that are inert. First developed by French engineer Georges Claude in 1902, neon lights create light by applying electricity to neon or argon in a sealed glass tube. Fifty times a second, the charge on each electrode alternates between positive and negative.
Sign creators use blowtorches to heat the glass tubes, bending them and sealing them together in colorful designs before pumping the gas into the tubes and sealing them. This chill factor makes neon an important refrigerant in cryogenics, the science of freezing things to very low temperatures.
An electric charge excites the neon, and the neon atoms give off light as they return to their neutral state, similar to the way neon signs work, according to the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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Argon makes blue light, and neon makes the clear orange-red that is familiar in neon signs, said Bill Concannon, a neon-sign artist and owner of Aargon Neon, a sign shop in Crockett, California. The first neon sign ever sold commercially was bought in 1912 by a Paris barber, according to DeBack.
Neon was discovered by Sir William Ramsay and one of his students, Morris W Travers in 1898.

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