Facts About Neon

Atomic Number: 10
Atomic Symbol: Ne
Atomic Weight: 20.1797
Melting Point: -433.46 F (-258.59 C)
Boiling Point: -410.94 F (-246.08 C)

Word origin: Derived from neos, the Greek word for new

Discovered: Neon was discovered in 1898 by William Ramsay and Morris Travers shortly after their discovery of the element krypton, another inert gas.

Properties of neon

Natural neon is a mixture of three isotopes, and there six additional known unstable isotopes.

Although it has been reported to form a compound with fluorine, neon is a very inert element. The scientific community continues to debate whether true compounds of neon exist, but evidence is mounting in favor of their existence. The ions, Ne+, (NeAr)+, (NeH)+, and (HeNe+) are known from optical and mass spectrometric studies. Neon also forms an unstable hydrate.


Neon glows reddish orange in a vacuum discharge tube. The discharge of neon is the most intense at ordinary voltages and currents of all the rare gases. [See Periodic Table of the Elements]

neon sign
Neon gas is used primarily to light up glass tubes in advertising displays.
Credit: Sorbis | Shutterstock

Sources of neon

Neon is the fourth most abundant element in the universe, but it is only 0.0018 percent of Earth's atmosphere, or about 1 part in 65,000 of air.

Neon is produced by liquefaction of air and separated from the other gases by fractional distillation.

Uses of neon

While neon advertising signs account for the majority of neon use, the element also functions in high-voltage indicators, TV tubes, lightning arrestors and wave meter tubes.

Neon has more than 40 times more refrigerating capacity per unit volume than liquid helium and more than three times that of liquid hydrogen. It is compact, inert, and is less expensive than helium, making it attractive for refrigeration.

Liquid neon is finding an application as an economical cryogenic refrigerant. Neon and helium are used in making gas lasers.

(Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory)

More from LiveScience