A brief explanation about how do neon signs work?


Neon lights are bright, colorful, and reliable, used for signs, displays, and even airport landing lights. Have you ever asked yourself how different shades of light work and appear? The neon lamp from Sketch and Etch contains a small amount of low-pressure neon gas.  Electricity provides energy to ionize neon atoms by scraping the electrons reaching the lamp terminals and completing the circuit.  When the neon atom has enough power to excite, it will produce light. When the molecule returns to a lower energy level, it releases a photon (light).

How do neon lights work?

You can build a fake neon light, but the original neon light is a glass tube filled with a small amount of neon gas (low pressure). Neon is used because it is one of the rare gases. The characteristic of these elements is that the atom has a complete electron shell. It does not react with other atoms, and requires a lot of energy to remove an electron. The tube has an electrode at each end. The Sketch and Etch neon lamp works under alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC). But when direct current is applied, only one electrode can light up. Look, use alternating current.

When a voltage (approximately 15,000 volts) to the terminals is applied, enough energy is released to remove external electrons from the neon atoms. If there is not enough voltage, the electrons will not have enough film energy to leave their molecule, and nothing will happen. The positively charged atoms (cations) of neon are attracted to the negative electrode, while free electrons are attracted to the positive electrode. The circuit of the lamp completes this kind of charged particle called plasma.

So from where comes the light? The atoms in the tube move by hitting them. They transfer energy to each other and generate a lot of heat. When some electrons escape their molecules, others collect enough energy to “excited.” It means that they have a higher energy state. Becoming an enthusiast is like climbing a ladder. Electronics can be on the ladder and not elsewhere.

By releasing this energy in the photons’ form, electrons can restore their original energy (light). How far the stimulating energy is from the original energy relies on the coloring of the light produced. It is a defined interval, just like the distance between the rungs of a ladder. Thus, every excited electron in an atom frees a distinctive photon wavelength. In other words, every rare gas emits a unique luminous color. It is the red-orange light of neon lights.

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