The Ultimate Neon FAQ

Courtesy of Krypton Neon

Everything you ever wanted to know about neon, and more!

If you have a question that you don't see answered, please contact us, we'd be happy to answer.

The initial color source is the inert gas that emits a characteristic color when electricity is applied. The two most common gases are neon, which emits a fiery red, and a mixture of argon and minute particles of mercury, which emits a subdued blue. Clear glass allows you to see the characteristic colors emitted by the gas.

Fluorescent powders may be coated or baked to the inside walls of the glass tubing and the source light is then transformed into a multitude of shades such as pink, turquoise, and green. By altering the mixture of phosphors, subtle differences are possible. For example, white is available in a wide array of color temperatures (measured in degrees kelvin) from warm (2300K) to cool (8600K).

Tubing is also produced in colored glass. Deep translucent reds, blues, yellows, and greens, for example, produce richly saturated colors referred to as exotic or Euro glass. Colored glass may also have a fluorescent coating which can change both the quality and color of the light.

Head over to our Krypton Neon Color Chart page to see the many colors available.
The glass is rotated and rocked (rocked 'n rolled) in burner flames which use a gas and air mixture to raise the flame temperature. Generally four burners are used. Crossfire and fishtail burners produce most angled bends and splices. Ribbon burners produce curves or sweeps. Hand torches are usually used for splices or tapering and tipping off electrodes.
Electrical current bombards the inert gas atoms knocking electrons out of their atomic orbits. The electrons collide with other free electrons and the inner glass wall of the tubing sending them back toward the atoms. As the electrons are absorbed back into the atom, energy is given off as light. It is an extremely efficient form of light, in many cases far more efficient than LEDs.
Neon tubes are capped off by two glass electrodes that have wires passing from outside to inside. One of these electrodes has a tubulation, a small tube that remains as a passage from outside to inside. The tubulation is sealed to the pumping system or manifold. The manifold has stopcocks or valves that allow sections to be selectively opened and closed.

An ultra-high vacuum pump pulls the air out of the tube while a high voltage/high amperage transformer sends electricity through the tube and heats the remaining air to produce temperatures in excess of 500 degrees F. This internal heating and "scrubbing" allows the tube to achieve a high degree of purity.

When a very high vacuum is reached and the tube has partially cooled, a small amount of inert gas is introduced from a flask or tank into the neon tube. The tubulation is then heated and due to the internal vacuum, the tubulation sucks in, thus creating a seal.
Neon and argon gas by themselves are not - they are inert and found in the air we breathe.

As with standard fluorescent tubes, minute droplets of mercury present in some colors are safe as long as the tube is not broken. Improper handling can be a threat to both the environment and health. Many modern neon shops refuse repair of broken argon-mercury tubes for this reason.

Neon is powered by voltages in the 2,000 to 15,000 volt range. Even though the current is in the milliamp range, if a neon piece is not properly mounted, wired, and insulated, this voltage poses both a shock and fire hazard. This is an area where cheapness does not pay off. A well constructed neon piece should be problem-free for many years.
Neon can last decades. In practical terms, the expected life span is between 8 to 15 years. Tubes filled with neon or without mercury can be repaired and recharged.
For most applications (signs, designs, etc.) neon is bent over a fire-resistant pattern or paper protected by a screen. Artistically expressive work is often freehand. Three dimensional work from artist or engineer drawings or dimensional templates is very challenging, but can be done.
Yes. Very interesting effects can be acheived because the light tends to fill the object with varied coloration and intensity. Depending on the power supply, it can respond to touch. This is an advanced and generally more costly technique.
The huge animated neon signs or spectaculars of the 1940s have multiple layers of neon, each powered in a timed sequence to produce the desired effect.

Many other forms of movement can be found in the neon tube itself. Wiggle tubes, crackle tubes, jelly beans, and whirlygigs are a few.
Yes, at least once every six months.
Absolutely! Krypton Neon offers occasional weekend workshops to the general public.

Join us in our studio and discover the mysteries and joy of creating light. Our hands-on experience will introduce you to the magic of shaping glass with fire to create your own piece of art.

Head over to our Neon Experience Workshop page for more info.