A colorful neon sign on a street

Neon sign – Just like fluorescent lights, neon signs are glass tubes filled with gas. When the light is turned on, the electricity flows through the tube. The electricity charges the gas and creates plasma inside of the tube. The plasma glows a special color depending on what kind of gas is inside. Inert gases are usually used in signs to create different colors. Noble gases such as helium (He), Neon (Ne), Argon (Ar), and Xenon (Xe) are all used in signs.

Neon signs are electric signs lighted by long luminous gas-discharge tubes that contain rarefied neon or other gases. They are the most common use for neon lighting, which was first demonstrated in a modern form in December 1910 by Georges Claude at the Paris Motor Show. While they are used worldwide, neon signs were extremely popular in the United States from about 1920–1960. The installations in Times Square were famed.

The Neon (gas) tube generally only Illuminates red, orange, and amber. Most other colored tubes you see in signs and art are usually“Argon” gas filled tubes not “neon”. However, most everyone refers to the neon and the argon tubes, simply as – Neon. There are now more than 150 colors that can be produced using neon and argon,

Tube bending – A section of the glass is heated until it is malleable; then it is bent into shape and aligned to a pattern of the graphics or lettering of the final product. The trick of bending is to bend one small section or bend at a time, heating one part of the tubing so that it is soft, without heating some other part of the tube as well. A bend, once the glass is heated, must be brought to the pattern and fitted rapidly before the glass hardens again because it is difficult to reheat once completely cooled without risking breakage. It is frequently necessary to skip one or more bends and come back to it later, by measuring carefully along the length of the tube. One tube letter may contain 7-10 small bends, and mistakes are not easily corrected without going back and starting all over again.

That’s engineering

  • light emission from gas discharge – electricity flows through the tube. The electricity charges the gas and creates plasma inside of the tube. The plasma glows a special color depending on what kind of gas is inside.
  • color depends on the gas – Neon (Ne) (gas) tube generally only Illuminates red, orange, and amber. Most other colored tubes you see are usually Argon (Ar) gas filled tubes. More than 150 colors that can be produced using neon and argon.

Engineering ideas

  • plasma, gas, current, inert gas, glass tube

Learn more…

  • Plasma – Plasmas are a lot like gases, but the atoms are different, because they are made up of free electrons and ions of an element such as neon (Ne).
  • Neon signs are electric signs lighted by long luminous gas-discharge tubes
  • History of Neon