neon signs are a staple of modern-day advertising. Their vibrant glow illuminates the streets, drawing attention to businesses and accentuating the atmosphere of cities all over the world. But have you ever wondered how they work? What is it that gives them their distinctive colors and flair?
While neon is often associated with the gas that powers these signs, it is only one part of the process. In reality, neon signs are actually created using a variety of noble gases, each playing a specific role in generating the desired effect.
To begin, glass tubes are shaped into the desired form and coated with a special phosphorescent material. This material converts the electric charge generated by the noble gases inside the tubes into light.
The noble gases used in neon signs include neon itself, as well as others like argon, helium, and xenon. Each of these gases produces a different color when excited by an electric current.
For example, neon will produce a bright orange-red glow, while argon produces a blue-green hue. Helium, on the other hand, creates a yellowish-orange glow, and xenon produces a blue-violet color.
However, the colors we see in neon signs are not solely due to the use of different noble gases. Instead, it is the combination of these gases with the phosphorescent material inside the tubes that allows for the creation of a variety of colors and shades.
For example, by using a mixture of neon and argon with the addition of a small amount of mercury, a bright pinkish-purple color is produced. This is known as “mercury neon” and is often used in more intricate neon sign designs.
In addition to the noble gases and phosphorescent coating, the voltage and current within the tubes also play a crucial role in the color and intensity of the light produced. By adjusting these factors, neon sign makers are able to create a wide variety of effects and hues.
Overall, the science behind neon sign production is a delicate and precise art form. The combination of specialized materials and electrical currents creates the vibrant hues and designs that have become synonymous with modern advertising. So, next time you see a neon sign lighting up the city, remember the complex science behind its electrifying glow.