Neon – It’s a Gas!

The Las Vegas strip. The Pike Place Market sign. Times Square. These words probably all draw up images in your mind that have one thing in common: NEON. For over 100 years, the technology used to create neon lights has remained very much the same, and purists the world over still rely on it for colorful, eye-catching signage. From large, show-stopping outdoor signs to small interior window signs, here’s a little background info you might not know about your favorite gas!

The Discovery of Neon and History of the Neon Light

The chemical element neon was first discovered in 1898 by British chemists Sir William Ramsay and Morris W. Travers, who at that same time discovered two other inert gases: argon and xenon. When isolated inside a sealed tube, the neon emitted a very bright reddish-orange glow. However because so little of the gas was extracted during their small-scale air liquefaction process, it was too costly to use in quantity. It wasn’t until 1910 that Air Liquide business owner George Claude was able to produce enough neon in his larger-scale process to make it practical for use in lighting applications. His first attempt at neon lighting, to be used in home settings, was unsuccessful. But once he was able to channel the neon light’s extreme brightness and unusual tint into signage applications, the demand began to grow. He sold the first neon signs in the United States to a Packard dealership in Los Angeles in 1923.

Just three years later, Jacques Risler of France discovered how to create additional colors in neon. By coating the sealed tube containing the gas with different fluorescent coatings or “phosphors,” the ultraviolet light emitted by the gases inside caused the tube to glow with various colors. Colors outside the red/orange spectrum usually have additional compounds added to enhance the color, such as argon and mercury. By the 1960s there were about two dozen color options available, and today there are almost 100.

Iconic Neon

Here are just a few examples of how neon can be used to create signs that are recognizable the world around.

Classic Texas barbecue neon sign

The grandfather of all neon cities, Las Vegas

The Pike Place Public Market in Seattle boasts one of the most recognizable neon signs in the US.

Neon can be fabricated in a wide variety of colors

Your (Business) Name in Lights

One of the main benefits offered by neon signage is its longevity. A well cared for neon sign can last for years, even decades. But just as in the early 1900s, neon can be very costly to fabricate and repair, making it outside the budget of many small businesses. So what alternatives have come along? Enter LED technology.

Just a few of the color options in LED neon style rope lighting

LED (light-emitting diode) technology is used in just about every illuminated sign we create at Signwave, from lightboxes to channel letters. It’s super bright, cool to touch, energy efficient, versatile, long-lasting, and affordable. There are even LED rope products that can mimic the look of classic neon tubing with more flexibility and color variety. With all the options that LED technology opened up, a classic-looking neon sign with modern benefits is in anyone’s reach.

Are You Ready To Be Iconic?

Whether you’ve been in business for 40 years or 40 days, you can be a neighborhood icon with the right signage. Are you ready? Call Signwave today and we’ll come to you for a consultation and site visit. We can help you stand out in the crowd.

 

 

 

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