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Understanding How Your Neon Creation Works

April 09, 2018 2 min read

Neon lights are bright, colourful, and can completely transform a room. But, have you ever stopped to wonder how they actually work and how we produce different colours of light? Here we take a look at the science behind neon signs, explaining just how they work so you can enjoy them to the fullest.

You may already know that your neon light consists of a glass tube, filled with neon or argon gas, but what don’t you know about your neon sign?

The construction of a Neon sign
At each of the end tubes in a neon light, there is an electrode that has been fitted. A neon sign can work by using one of two currents; DC (direct current), or AC (alternating current). If only a direct current is used, the glow of neon is only shown on one electrode. With that in mind, an alternating current is used for the majority of neon signs that you see today.

When an electric voltage is applied to the terminals, enough energy is produced to remove an electron from the neon atoms. If there isn’t enough voltage, there won’t be enough kinetic energy to allow the electrons to escape the atoms and your light won’t work!

How does the Neon light come about?
Atoms contained in the tube are constantly ‘hitting’ into each other whilst moving around. During this process, they transfer energy to one another, which produces lots of heat whilst doing so. Some electrons may escape their atoms, but others will gain the required amount of energy needed to achieve a higher energy state.

An electron can revert back to its original energy by releasing that energy as a light. The colour of the light that’s produced will all depend on the distance between the original energy and the excited energy. Therefore, each excited electron of an atom produces a unique wavelength of light which means that each noble gas that has a higher energy state will release a distinctive colour of light. With neon, this is an orange-reddish colour.

How do you produce different colours of light?
You’ve probably seen a lot of different colours of neon lights, so you might be wondering how exactly these are produced. There are two main processes to produce other colours of light beside the red-orange colour that neon naturally produces.

The first way to achieve this is to use a mixture of gases or use another gas completely to produce different colours. You could use other ‘noble gases’ such as argon gas or helium. Each noble gas releases a distinctive colour of light allowing us to achieve a multicoloured sign.

The second way to produce different colours of neon light is to coat the glass with a chemical that will produce a certain colour of glow when it’s energised.
Now you have a better understanding of how a neon creation works, you can obtain your own unique neon sign by getting in touch with us today.