Interesting Facts about Neon

The Noble Gas neon is one of the most inert elements known. Finding interesting facts about an element that does not do very much is difficult but I’ll try.

Starting with the elements basic properties, its atomic weight is 20.1797 and its density 0.0008999 grams per cubic centimeter. The ionization energy of neon is 21.565 eV and its oxidation state is 0.

Within the periodic table, neon occurs in period 2 and group 18. All group 18 elements have a complete outer shell of electrons. This configuration is very stable so they do not readily form compounds with other elements.

The scientists Sir William Ramsay and Morris M. Travers discovered the element in their studies on liquid air in 1898. During these studies, the pair also discovered two other noble gases – xenon and krypton. They named their newly found element after the Greek word “neos” meaning new.

Within the Earth’s atmosphere, neon occurs at a concentration of only 1 part in 65000. Despite this low concentration, commercial neon production is by the fractional distillation of liquid air. This process also produces the noble gases krypton, xenon and argon. Although rare in the Earth’s atmosphere neon is the fourth most abundant element in the universe. Naturally occurring neon consist of three stable isotopes neon-20, neon-21 and neon-22.

With a melting point of minus 248.59 C (24.56 K, minus 415.46 F) and a boiling point of minus 246.08 C (27.07 K, minus 410.94 F) liquid neon is of value as a liquid refrigerant. It has 40 times more refrigerating capacity than the more expensive liquid helium and more than 3 times that of the more explosive liquid hydrogen.

Within a discharge tube, neon exhibits a bright red glow. All the naturally occurring noble gases glow within discharge tubes but neon produces the brightest light at normal wattage and current. This ability has led to its major use in the world of advertising as it lights many an illuminated advertisement hoarding.

Of the compounds of neon very little can be said. It forms an unstable hydrate and possibly a compound with the highly reactive element fluorine.  An electrical discharge will cause neon to combine with mercury vapor. Van der Waal’s forces then hold this mercury-neon product together. Optical and mass spectroscopic analysis has revealed the presence of the following ions Ne+, (NeAr)+, (NeH)+ and (HeNe+).

Reference sources

Los Alamos National Laboratory Chemistry Division

Jefferson Laboratories Science Education website

 Web Elements