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Neon (Ne)

QUICK REFERENCE

  • Symbol: Ne
  • Atomic Number: 10
  • Atomic Weight: 20.1797
  • Element Classification: Noble Gas
  • Discovered By: Sir William Ramsay and Morris Travers
  • Discovery Date: 1898
  • Name Origin: Greek: ‘neos’ (new)
  • Density(g/cc): 0.0008999 (at 0°C, 101.325 kPa)
  • Melting Point: -248.59°C
  • Boiling Point: -246.08°C
  • Appearance: Colorless, odorless gas
  • Atomic Radius(pm): 38

Discovery

Neon was discovered in 1898 by Sir William Ramsay and Morris Travers in London, shortly after their discoveries of the elements krypton and xenon. They isolated neon from the atmosphere while they were studying liquefied air. The bright red-orange light emitted by electrified neon tubes led to its commercial use in lighting. The name “neon” comes from the Greek word ‘neos’, meaning new, reflecting its then-recent addition to the known elements.

Relation to Other Elements

Neon is a member of the noble gases group in the periodic table, which are characterized by their complete valence electron shells, making them extremely stable and not readily forming chemical compounds. Among the noble gases, neon is notable for its lack of reactivity and a very narrow range of compounds. Neon’s properties as an inert, non-toxic gas with a relatively low density compared to air make it unique in applications that require a controlled, unreactive atmosphere.

Natural Occurrence

Neon is the fifth most abundant element in the universe by mass, found in stars and in the interstellar medium. On Earth, neon is relatively rare, making up about 18 parts per million of the Earth’s atmosphere, which is less than other noble gases like argon and helium. Neon is obtained commercially by the fractional distillation of liquefied air, separating it from other components such as nitrogen and oxygen.

Uses

Neon is primarily used in lighting and high-voltage indicators:

  • Lighting: Neon lighting and neon signs are made from glass tubes filled with neon gas that emit a distinctive bright red-orange glow when electrified. Neon can also be mixed with other gases to produce different colors of lights.
  • High-voltage Indicators and Vacuum Tubes: Neon is used in high-voltage indicators, voltage regulator tubes, and television tubes, taking advantage of its electrical conductivity and the bright glow it emits when subjected to an electric field.
  • Cryogenics: Although less common, neon has been used as a cryogenic refrigerant in applications that require cooling beyond the limits of liquid nitrogen, such as in the cooling of infrared detectors and scientific instruments.
  • Research and Development: In specialized scientific equipment, neon is used in gas lasers and in experiments involving ion propulsion for space exploration.

Despite its relatively limited range of applications compared to more reactive elements, neon’s distinctive glow has made it iconic in advertising and signage, symbolizing the technological progress and urban landscape of the 20th century. Its use in scientific and high-technology fields underscores the importance of even the most chemically inert elements in advancing human knowledge and capabilities.

Fluorine (F)

Sodium (Na)