How can we not love neon lights?

The George Claude process of air liquefaction was another innovation that resulted in the invention of neon lamps. His invention of a process that allows gasses to be converted to liquid through cooling and reheating enabled him to make large quantities of pure neon. This noble chemical was discovered years before and had unique characteristics when exposed to electricity. But, due to difficulties in obtaining pure neon, the neon lamp would not be patentable until more than a decade after its discovery.

After purifying neon by capturing runoff gasses emitted during the liquefaction, Claude put it into enormous glass vacuum tubes that look a lot like fluorescent bulbs today. Then, he ran an electrical current through both ends of each tube. Later versions of the tubes only ran the current through one side, but the end result is the exact same – bright orange/red light.

People associate neon lighting with a multitude of colors. However, pure neon emits only an orange-red glow. Quanta is the term for light energy released by electrons in atoms, such as neon. They are fixed-sized bunches of light energy. The size of the light wave is related to how the human eye perceives color. For example, a larger wave might appear blue and a smaller wave may appear red. All other colors (e.g. purple, yellow, and so on) can be obtained by mixing neon lights. Mixing gases can give you other colors.

It is not difficult to see how fireworks are made. The firework will emit a different color if certain metal salts are used. The metal salts strontium or lithium salts are responsible for red fireworks, while blue and calcium come from copper and calcium. This is the same process that makes neon lighting possible.

Designers are always on the lookout for the latest lighting technology. However, the neon light is still a great choice. While it’s efficient in terms of energy consumption, it’s not the best way to illuminate a room. Neon has many wonderful characteristics that make it easy for people to fall in love. If left on, neon can burn for 50+years.

In some ways, neon signs are unique to America. No other country has embraced neon signs in the same way after WWII as the U.S. It is probably neon’s aesthetic and nostalgic qualities that attract neon light enthusiasts and IA developers to this century-old technology. These small moments of escape can be found in retail and workspace environments around the world.

Love Neon is Easy

Another innovation that led to the invention of the neon lamp is George Claude’s process for air liquefaction. He developed a method that allowed gasses to be made liquid by cooling them and then heating them. This enabled him to produce large amounts of pure neon. The noble gas was discovered many years ago and displayed unique properties when exposed to electricity. The neon lamp was not patentable due to the difficulties in getting pure neon. It took more than a decade.

After purifying the neon (via the capture of runoff gases emitted by the liquefaction) Claude placed it in enormous glass vacuum tubes, much like today’s fluorescent lamps. Then he ran an electric current through the tubes at both ends. Later tubes ran the current through one end, but the result was the same: a bright orange/red glow.

Although many people associate neon lighting with a variety of colors, it actually emits only orange-red light. Quanta is the fixed-size energy that electrons in atoms such as neon emit when they get excited. The size of the light waves corresponds to the way the human eye perceives a particular color. A larger wave might appear blue while a smaller one might appear red. Any other colors, such as purple, yellow, and so forth, can be seen in most neon lights. Mixing gasses is a great way to get other colors (e.g., purple, yellow, etc.)

This is how fireworks are made. A firework emits a different color when certain metal salts have been burned. Blue fireworks are made from strontium and lithium salts. Orange comes from calcium and copper. The same process is used to create neon lighting.

We still love neon light as designers are always looking for new lighting technologies. Although it isn’t the most efficient way to light up a room, it can also be very energy-intensive. It is easy to fall in love with neon because of its many unique characteristics. 

Neon signs are in some ways a uniquely American experience. The United States was the first nation to embrace neon signs after WWII. It’s likely that neon’s aesthetic qualities, as well as a sense of nostalgia, are what most endear neon light lovers and IA designers. They help create small moments to escape from work and retail environments all over the globe.