Ever had an electric good time in a neon wall sign and wondered how those happy colors were made? Well, let us tell you the abridged version of what happens next. The electrically-charged gasses are sucked into a metal tube where they encounter a slice of phosphorus that is usually coated with sodium. When the electric charge hits the sodium, it bursts into flame at 6000 degrees Fahrenheit and begins to give off light. The glowing molecules then flow through another glass tube which is filled with mercury vapor which turns them into liquid particles suspended in gas form (it’s really weird, but you’re smart enough that your brain should be able to figure it out).
1. Neon Lights: Just the Facts, Please
The word “neon” comes from the Latin “neon umn,” which means “to be shiny.” Neon lights were first seen in Paris in 1910 at the International Exhibition of Electricity.
2. How do you spell neon?
There are two ways to spell neon: with or without an “e.” Check out this sentence that uses both versions: “Neon and helium gas are used in signs instead of incandescent bulbs.”
3. Who came up with it?
William Ramsay and Morris W. Travers are credited with creating the first neon lamp in 1898.
4. What do they look like?
Neon lights are usually made of a metal tube filled with gas. Inside the tube, the gas looks like a fluorescent light. The metal tube is usually coated with sodium (a chemical element) and then coated with powdered phosphor that is usually created by mixing phosphorus, zinc oxide, and barium. The phosphor gives off light when hit with an electric charge.
5. How do they work?
Neon signs that you see out in the world have a switch which will turn on and off an electric current from the power company running through a wire from the power station to your business. The current enters the lamp and goes through a valve. The valve is opened with an electromagnet that lets the gas enter when electricity is applied to it. When enough gas has entered, another electromagnet closes the valve and stops more gas from entering until it’s needed again.
6. How much do they cost?
The cost of installing these signs depends on a few things: where you live (electric companies charge different rates for different places), how big of a sign you get, and what your business does to help the electric company (some discounts are available for industrial businesses that help keep production costs down).
7. How long can they last?
Neons that are in good shape will last for 20-30 years (not all neon signs use lead, but they do need to be replaced). There are a few neon signs that have been around for 75 years and still look as if they were just installed. However, if you notice any of these signs, it’s because they are in a very well-maintained business with the electric company. Signs that haven’t had much care taken of them can get into terrible shape very quickly.
8. What’s the connection between neon lights and happiness?
Neon signs are the source of many memories. People remember how their parents told them not to touch the sign when they were little. Some people do well with just looking at a sign, while others want to touch it and feel it in person. Neon lights make you happy because the colors make people feel good about themselves.
9. What do they say about the person who owns them?
Neon signs show what the owner is like. If a business owner has a neat, clean sign that looks great, it’s because they take good care of the business. If someone has a neon sign in their office, you can assume that they have money to spend on things, but not much time. The owner usually likes to be noticed, but doesn’t want to be flashy.
10. How do they make you feel?
A lot of people have described neon signs to make them feel nostalgic, but in a good way. Others describe the signs as looking like they are from another time, which can make them feel better about their present time. The colors and general shape are pleasing to the eye. Neon lights just make me happy, because they are so bright and colorful!
11. Really cool fact about neon lights:
Did you know that 90 percent of all neon lights are made in Korea? The longest single string of electrically-lit neon in the world stretches for 1/4 mile and is located at the Marina Bay Sands Casino in Singapore!
Neon lights were created by two guys who were working for a lighting company in London. They’re cheap to buy, but they’re pretty expensive to have installed and run. They say that neon signs make people feel good, because the colors are so bright and stand out against the scenery. Now you know all about neon signs!