Of course we all know neon makes for fantastic signage, as seen from our beautiful Neon Creations, and is often used for entrances to bars, nightclubs and even as an art form itself, but its no surprise that people use it to display prominent pictures, or even proposals. However, as the fifth most abundant element on Earth, there are many other interesting uses for neon and it’s interesting to look at how different people use neon – in all it’s forms – as part of their jobs, and even as part of their social lives. With that in mind, we take a look at some of the most interesting uses of neon across the world;
Neon in TVs & Flat-panel Displays
Historically, TVs operated using a series of neon vacuum tubes behind a glass screen which would emit light behind the screen in flashes, but over time, they have since fallen out of fashion as technological advancements have provided more suitable alternatives.
In 1936, Hungarian engineer, Kálmán Tihanyi, first described the principle behind “plasma television” and generated ideas behind the first flat-panel display system. However, in 1964 the monochrome plasma video display was invented and was further developed over the following 50 years becoming more commercially viable. These days, there are a wealth of flat-panel plasma displays that still function in the same way, but even these types of TVs are now perceived as outdated by some due to the popular use of LEDs in more recent TV sets.
Apparently, Samsung stopped manufacturing TVs with plasma displays in 2014…
If you’re interested in science (and I think you may have guessed that we are), you may have followed the development of helium-neon lasers. If not, at least you can see one…
Powered by a small DC charge, the laser combines the properties of both neon and helium at a mix of (1:10) which is then powered through a tube to give off a laser that reach up to 632.88nm in the red part of the spectrum. These lasers are generally used in optic lab demonstrations, but was also used in some consumer electronics such as Pioneer LaserDisc players to read the optical disk!
A little known fact to those outside of the industry is that neon is often used in cryogenics, which is the study of the creation and behaviour of materials at very low temperatures of less than −150 °C. In particular, noble gases are among the most common forms of cryogenic liquid; along with Nitrogen and ambient air, as they are naturally present within the Earth’s atmosphere.
Specifically, when neon is cooled to -246.15°C it changes state from a gas into a liquid via a condensation reaction. When liquefied neon is produced, . Albeit this may not be an entirely unexpected use of neon, but in cryogenics, neon is more commonly used as a refrigerant for power ships as it is far too expensive to be used for more commercial applications. This is because the huge rotating machines present in navy war ships render generators unreliable, so neon cryogenics are employed to ensure that the temperature is kept at a constant temperature. However, neon isn’t always the most viable liquefied gas to use for these applications as it can be expensive to purchase, when compared to other gases such as nitrogen or helium.
Neon and parties
Of course no article highlighting the many uses of neon would be complete without a mention of neon body paint or make up, generally worn at parties and in clubs where it’s possible to get UV lighting to show up the elaborate designs that can be drawn on faces or bodies.
Neon parties are quickly rising in popularity, but it may surprise you to know that this “neon” paint doesn’t actually contain the element, and the term simply means that the paint is ultra-bright. Instead, it contains a pigment that absorbs ultraviolet light and releases the energy as visible light, contrary to regular paints that retains the energy for much less time.
So there you have it 4 unusual uses of neon! Of course, we still believe it’s best application is in it’s most decorative form, as a neon sign, light or decoration any time, anywhere.