ramsayIt can be said that neon signs were invented in 1898,  when two British chemists working in London, England by the names William Ramsay (1852 – 1916) and Morris W. Travers (1872-1961) first discovered the noble gas neon. Their process was simple. By chilling a sample of the atmosphere to the liquid point Ramsay was then able to boil the very air we breath and collect the gasses which boiled off which included neon, amongst others.

In 1904, Scottish born Ramsay received the Nobel prize in Chemistry for his work on Nobel gasses. Travers, who’s father was also a well known scientist, was born in England and went on to found the Indian Institute of Science. It wasn’t until December of 1910 that a French engineer named George Claude created the first neon lamp by injecting the gas into an electrified glass tube. Claude’s work was based on the earlier Geissler Tube, or Crooke’s Tube, which was used to demonstrate how electrical discharge functioned.

Commercial production began in 1915 with a Packard car dealership being Claude’s first customer, although a Paris barber acquired a prototype sign in 1912. Since then, neon signs have advanced, drawing the interest of artists and advertisers alike. The extraordinary success of neon signs in outdoor advertising stems from their ability to be seen even during the day. By bending and shaping the tubes, neon lighting offers, much like led lights,  advertisers a flexible media to create eye-catching signs.

Some cities have capitalised on the wonder of neon signs to draw tourism, such as Atlantic City, Reno, and Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Strip, known world wide for its lights, began in 1941 with the opening of the El Rancho hotel and has since grown to a 4.1 mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard which is host to various casinos and hotels, each decorated with a dizzying kaleidoscope of neon signs. It’s interesting to note that not all neon signs contain neon, some use argon, helium, krypton or xenon. The method of producing neon signs and led signs,  hasn’t altered much since it’s original invention.

making a neon signneon sign is created by shaping a straight glass tube after exposing the tube to a torch, most commonly natural gas as it is the least expensive. As the heat begins to melt the glass it become malleable. When the desired shape has been produced an electrode is melted into either end of the tube. After this, the air is evacuated and the Nobel gas, usually neon, is injected. Unlit areas are created in the tube by dipping the desired dark areas into a special black paint like liquid. After this, the tubes are mounted and wired, ready to become one more step in the history of neon.

Over the last 10 years Neon has taken a new turn in its use both commercially and at home.  With one eye on the environmental and another on lowering costs, LED neon signs have superseded traditional neon globally, but especially in emerging markets.  However, not all is right in the new world of LED neon signs.

LED imperfections?

Last August, a Sandia National Labs (Albuquerque) report said expanded use of LEDs could raise, not lower, America’s energy costs. This report flies in the face of accepted reasoning — that LEDs save energy Sandia’s thinking? Energy-saving LEDs are easy-to-use lighting devices, so, the lab said, people will want more of them, which will run up energy use. In that manner, LEDs are akin to chocolate, because people always want more chocolate. Sandia’s researchers said increased LED-lighting demands would heighten supply, processing and energy costs, and therefore, it concluded, LEDs won’t save energy Lockheed Martin Co. manages Sandia, a government-owned/contractor-operated facility, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. ‘The lab concen- rates on nuclear-weapon safety, energy and infrastructure surety, nonproliferation of weapons, defense systems assessments and homeland security and defense.

Someone in that tangled web thought it necessary to analyze LEDs’ future.

Some believe, however, that Sandia’s “increased demand” analysis foretells personal taste, which is, by-and-large, unpredictable. For example — and, as astounding as it may seem some people don’t like chocolate, In the same way, not everyone will want LEDs.

Differently, Sandia lead researcher Jeff Tsao wrote, “LEDs may be instead the next step in increasing human productivity and quality of life.” He’s possibly glimpsed that LEDs’ low power requirements and ease-of-use features, coupled with solar or wind generators, could help illuminate remote areas, especially third-world homes and villages. Or signs. You’ve surely seen ‘Tapco’s solar-powered, LED-based, BlinkerSigns® traffic devices, but also explore the wind-powered LED lights on igreenspot.com. ‘Think about remote-location, directional signs.

‘Another LED objection is via The French National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety. Its recent risk alert said high-power LEDs can exert “toxic stress” on one’s retina — if that person {gazes into an unrestricted, HB LED light source “for a long time.”

No kidding. It’s true, however, that bright, short-wavelength lighting — that which we perceive as violet and ultraviolet may cause temporary blindness. Indium gallium nitride (InGaN) LEDs can emit violet rays, but the temporary blindness effect stems from extended, direct exposure, so don’t do that.

Similar sources are the aftermarket, xenon-krypton headlights that various sports-luxury sedan drivers install in their European imports.

‘Another objection is that LEDs loathe high temperatures, but you can work around that shortcoming, just as, oppositely, neon benders alter certain tubing loads so their signs will light in cold weather.

‘Neon authors Morgan Crook and Jacob Fishman cover cold-weather, neon processes on page 169 of ‘The Neon Engineers Handbook.‘ They said a temperature threshold exists inside the [neon] tube that must be maintained, so the tube can produce normal light output. ‘They added, “…there are many things we can manipulate in order to remain above this temperature threshold, or [to] cross back over it as quickly as possible.”

‘Their excellent advice? Design your signs to work all year.