How Is Neon Produced?

Gas suppliers produce neon, an inert elemental gas that exists in the Earth's atmosphere, as a byproduct of liquefying and separating air in a laboratory through the fractional distillation process. The purified neon is stored in metal gas cylinders, under pressure, as a liquid. Neon forms no naturally occurring compounds and, according to WebElements, 1 part in 65000 of the atmosphere is neon.

Neon signs use neon gas in a vacuum tube to produce a reddish-orange light for signs. Mixing neon with other gases allows the production of advertising signs. Manufacturers mix helium and neon to produce helium-neon lasers.

Sir William Ramsay and Morris M. Travers discovered neon in 1898, a short time after their discovery of the element krypton. It is one of the three remaining gases in air after removal of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and argon. While only 0.0018 percent of the Earth's atmosphere is neon, it is the fourth-most abundant element found in the universe.

Commercial quantities of liquid neon became available in 1902 through Georges Claude's Air Liquide. Claude first demonstrated the neon light in December 1910, wanting it to gain acceptance as a type of indoor lighting; however, consumers rejected the it due to the color. Two years later, Claude's associate began marketing neon tubes for advertising. The first use in the United States was in 1923 at a Los Angeles Packard car dealership.