Neon is a chemical element with the atomic number 10 in the periodic table. It’s the fourth most abundant element found in the Universe, with an abundance of 0.00022% in Earth’s crust. Being a member of the noble gasses group in the periodic table, this chemically inert substance has eight valence electrons and does not participate in any chemical compound.
Chemical and Physical Properties of Neon
The symbol in the periodic table of elements: Ne
Atomic number: 10
Atomic weight (mass): 20.179 g.mol-1
Group number: 18 (Noble gas)
Period: 2 (p-block)
Color: A colorless nonmetallic substance
Physical state: Gas at room temperature
Half-life: From 7.7(3)×10−22 seconds to 3.38 minutes
Electronegativity according to Pauling: Unknown
Density: 0.000825 g.cm-3
Melting point: −248.59°C, −415.46°F, 24.56 K
Boiling point: −246.046°C, −410.883°F, 27.104 K
Van der Waals radius: 0.16 nm
Ionic radius: Unknown
Most characteristic isotope: 20Ne
Electronic shell: [He]2s22p6
The energy of the first ionization: 3952 kJ.mol-1
The energy of the second ionization: 6122 kJ.mol-1
Discovery date: In 1898 by Sir William Ramsay and Morris Travers
With the periodic table symbol 10, atomic number 10, atomic mass of 20.179 g.mol-1, and electron configuration [He]2s22p6, neon is a chemically inert, colorless, odorless, diamagnetic, and non-toxic gas. It reaches its boiling point at −246.046°C, −410.883°F, 27.104 K, while the melting point is achieved at −248.59°C, −415.46°F, 24.56 K. This rare monoatomic atmospheric gas has an unknown electronegativity according to Pauling, while the atomic radius of neon according to van der Waals is 0.16 nm.
Neon is a rare gas with a closely packed cubic structure composed of molecules that contain a single atom of this chemical element. It is classified in the group of noble gasses, together with helium, argon, krypton, and xenon. These chemical elements are not only the most stable substances in the periodic table but also the least reactive ones because they all have a full outer valence shell.
Sharing the properties of its family of the periodic table, neon is also an excellent conductor of electricity which exhibits the most prominent characteristic of this chemical element – the colorful glow.
How Was Neon Discovered?
The story of neon’s discovery begins in 1898. After having successfully isolated the elements argon and helium, the Scottish chemist Sir William Ramsay (1852 – 1916) and his English fellow Morris Travers (1872 – 1961) made an effort to achieve a new scientific discovery at the University College of London.
As an experienced chemist, Ramsey was aware of the fact that a chemical element may often hide a new, undiscovered substance within its structure. For this reason, these two scientists attempted to freeze the argon sample by using liquid air.
After gases (nitrogen, oxygen, argon, and krypton) evaporated, the residue turned out to be an undefined gaseous substance that emitted a bright crimson glow when ionized. Especially after krypton had been removed from the residue, there was a gaseous substance that gave a brilliant red light detected by the method of spectroscopy.
Ramsay was firmly convinced that this is the element that would fit into the predicted position in the periodic table, which was located between the elements helium and argon. In 1904, Sir William Ramsay was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in recognition of his great achievement and discovery of the inert gaseous elements in the air.
How Did Neon Get Its Name?
The name of this chemical element comes from the Greek word ‘νέον’ (neon) with its literal translation being ‘“new”. Since the chemical behavior of the inert gas they successfully isolated from an argon sample was rather new for Ramsay and Travers, the scientists decided to name their new element “neon”, thus borrowing the Greek term denoting “the new gas”.
Where Can You Find Neon?
Neon is both a rare and abundant substance. In the Universe, element 10 was formed by the alpha process in stars. This process refers to the internal pressure of the large mass stars that triggered the fusion of the carbon atoms into neon atoms. Near the end of these stars, they enter the carbon burning phase and form neon, oxygen, magnesium, and sodium.
Rarely found in the Earth’s atmosphere, neon can occur in diamonds and some volcanic vents. For commercial purposes, neon is primarily obtained from the liquefying air. The production of neon is a relatively expensive process – both the liquid neon and the neon gas can be priced 55 times more than the liquid helium.
Neon in Everyday Life
The most prominent and popular use of neon is in the bright, neon signs. However, this chemical also has a number of other applications in the everyday life:
- The widely popular neon signs are made with the element 10 that emits a reddish-orange color in the neon lights, neon lamps, as well as in the popular advertising signs. Neon lights are made by applying electricity to neon or argon in a sealed glass tube;
- The famous neon signs of the iconic Las Vegas strip are made of mercury and argon with an addition of phosphors in order to add various colors to the emitted light. One of the most culturally significant neon signs displayed in Las Vegas is the timeless NewYork-New York sign which was lit since 1997;
- Liquefied neon has a wide commercial application as an economical cryogenic refrigerant. It has over 40 times more refrigerating capacity per unit volume than liquid helium and more than 3 times that of liquid hydrogen;
- Neon is a chemical often used in the production of television tubes, high-voltage indicators, wave meter tubes, lightning arrestors, plasma TV screens, plasma displays, etc;
- Together with helium, the ions of neon have a significant application in gas lasers.
How Dangerous Is Neon?
This chemical element is classified as a non-toxic substance. However, upon an exposed exposure to neon, it can act as a simple asphyxiant upon its inhalation and lead to:
- Difficulty breathing;
- Rapidly occurring fatigue;
- Loss of consciousness;
- Impaired muscle coordination;
- Suffocation (Asphyxiation);
- Deep coma;
If the neon accumulation in the body’s tissues reaches above 70%, it can be fatal within minutes.
Environmental Effects of Neon
Being exceptionally inert, neon is a rare and non-toxic atmospheric gas at a normal temperature and pressure. Despite being the fourth most abundant element in the Universe, neon is contained in extremely small quantities in the air.
Isotopes of Neon
Neon has 19 isotopes whose atomic masses range from neon-15 to neon-34. 20Ne, 21Ne, and 22Ne are the only stable isotopes among all forms of the element 10. Also, there are 17 radioactive isotopes. All of the radioactive forms of neon are short-lived.
With a half-life of 3.38 minutes, 24Ne is the longest-lived neon isotope. The neon-20 is the most commonly occurring isotope with 90.48 percent of natural abundance.
| Main Isotopes of Neon (10Ne)
List of Neon Compounds
Due to the fact that neon gas is a completely inert substance, there are no compounds made with this chemical element. However, there are several temporary excited neon-containing molecules, which are labeled as excimers. An excimer (or an excited dimer) is an unstable diatomic excited molecule that is formed by combining two smaller and identical molecules.
In addition, neon is able to form an extremely weak atomic bond with an atom of a transition metal, participating in the chemical reaction as a ligand. (ex. Cr(CO)5Ne, Mo(CO)5Ne, W(CO)5Ne. Neon can also form a compound with fluorine, but only under certain laboratory conditions.
5 Interesting Facts and Explanations
- While the gas neon is only used to produce lights in reddish-orange color, all other vivid colors of fluorescent lighting and tube lighting products made with noble gases that radiate intensively colored light are labeled as neon colors.
- We can distinguish 39 types of neon colors, among which we find: bright chartreuse, bright magenta, bright scarlet, bright saffron, electric crimson, bright teal, electric flamingo, electric cyan, electric pink, electric sheep, electric red, electric yellow, fluorescent green, fluorescent orange, light neon pink, neon blue, etc. These neon colors are typically applied whenever there’s a need for high visibility (of products or signs). Neon signs were developed in 1902 by the French engineer Georges Claude.
- The term neonium refers to the NeH+ ion that is formed by protonation of the chemical element neon. Neonium is the second-largest ion among the protonated rare gases.
- Protonation is the process of adding a proton (H+) to an atom, molecule, or ion.
- Asphyxiant gases have the ability to remove oxygen from the air which can lead to suffocation due to the lack of O2 needed for human respiration.