(Gr. neos, new) Discovered by Ramsay and Travers in 1898. Neon is a rare gaseous
element present in the atmosphere to the extent of 1 part in 65,000 of air. It is obtained
by liquefaction of air and separated from the other gases by fractional distillation.
Natural neon is a mixture of three isotopes. Six other unstable isotopes are known.
Neon, a very inert element, is however said to form a compound with fluorine. It is
still questionable if true compounds of neon exist, but evidence is mounting in favor of
their existence. The ions, Ne+, (NeAr)+, (NeH)+, and (HeNe+) are known from optical and
mass spectrometric studies. Neon also forms an unstable hydrate.
In a vacuum discharge tube, neon glows reddish orange.
It has over 40 times more refrigerating capacity per unit volume than liquid helium and
more than three times that of liquid hydrogen. It is compact, inert, and is less expensive
than helium when it meets refrigeration requirements.
Of all the rare gases, the discharge of neon is the most intense at ordinary voltages
Although neon advertising signs account for the bulk of its use, neon also functions in
high-voltage indicators, lightning arrestors, wave meter tubes, and TV tubes. Neon and
helium are used in making gas lasers. Liquid neon is now commercially available and is
finding important application as an economical cryogenic refrigerant.
Neon costs about $2.00/l.