Things You'll Need
- Neon gas
- Argon gas
- Helium gas
- Glass tubing
- Low-pressure air pump
- Low-pressure vacuum pump
- 2 neon light electrodes
- 1 5000 VAC Peak and 600 VAC Sustained Power Supply
- Safety goggles
Neon gas is the first primary inert gas used to produce neon sign colors and results in red colors when electricity is applied. Argon the second primary inert gas used to make neon sign colors and produces blue colors when electricity is applied. Many neon sign colors are obtained by using colored glass tubing, along with special mixture of neon and argon gases. Sometimes Xenon and Krypton are used to produce special effects in the neon sign colors.
Add 100-percent neon gas to a neon light to create the color red when activated with electricity. This color is typically used with clear glass; colored glass is not necessary. When the light is off the color of the tube is clear.
Add 100-percent argon gas and a purple fluorescent-lined colored glass tube. The same purple colored glass tube will give a magenta color when neon gas is used instead or argon. When the light is off the color of the tube is white.
Add 100-percent argon gas to a green fluorescent lined colored glass tube to make a green neon sign. The same colored glass produces an amber neon light when neon gas is used. When the light is off the color of the tube is white.
Make a mauve neon light with 100 percent neon gas and a light-emitting phosphorescent material coated on the inside of a neo-blue colored glass tube. The same colored glass tube will provide a deep blue color when argon gas is used. When the light is off the color of the tube is light blue.
Mix a combination of 50-percent argon and 50-percent helium gas in clear gold colored glass tube to make a gold neon light. The same colored glass produces and amber color with 50 percent neon gas and 50 percent helium gas. The color of the glass is yellow when the light is off.
Add a tiny droplet of mercury to make an intense blue neon light with 100 percent argon gas in a fluorescent lined glass tube. The color of the glass when the light is off is white.
Make subtle changes in the quality and color of the three primary colors of neon lights (red, blue, and green) by adding or subtracting the amount of fluorescent coating on the inside of the glass tubes.
Install one neon light electrode to each end of a neon light bulb. Leave a small access hole in one end of the light bulb for connecting a low-pressure vacuum pump.
Connect the low-pressure vacuum pump to the end of the end of the neon light bulb with the opening. When finished disconnect the vacuum pump.
Connect one hose of the low-pressure air pump to the container holding the neon gas or gas mixture and connect the other pump hose to the neon glass tube opening.
Add a small amount of neon gas or gas mixture to the neon glass tube. Only small amounts of neon gas are needed to light the bulb. Disconnect the low-pressure air pump.
Connect neon glass tube electrodes, both ends, to the power supply. The power supply uses 5,000 VAC to start the neon light and then uses 600 VAC to sustain the light while it is in operation.
Add a tiny droplet of mercury to any neon color to increase the intensity of the color. The mercury produces an ultraviolet light that excites the fluorescent coating on the inside of the glass tubes. VAC = Voltage Alternating Current
Do not allow mercury to touch bare skin. Mercury is absorbed through the skin and lodges in the brain. Too much exposure to mercury could cause brain damage. Gloves and safety goggles must be worn when handling mercury. Neon sign gases should only be handled in well ventilated areas, to avoid suffocation and other medical problems.
A resident of Mobile, AL, David R. Wetzel has been writing education-related articles for over 20 years. His articles have appeared in "Science Scope," "Science Teacher," and the "Journal of Computing in Teacher Education." He holds a Doctor of Philosophy in education from George Mason University.