The Physics
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Voltage of a Neon Light

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Lamp Tutorial. All About Switches. EAO. "Neon lamps are low-current, long-life light sources limited by the high ionization voltage of neon (80 V and higher) for use in line voltage circuits" 80 V
Caba, Randall. Three Neon Myths Dispelled. "The transformer steps up normal wall voltage of about 115 volts to a range between 2000 volts and 15000 volts" 2000–15,000 V
Neon Lamps [pdf]. Gilway Technical Lamp Engineering Catalog 169. "When a starting voltage (usually 55-110 volts AC, or 90- 140 volts DC) is applied, the gas ionizes and starts to glow permitting a very small current to travel from one electrode to the other. Once ionized, a lower voltage will maintain the operation of the lamp. The maintaining voltage is usually 10-20 volts below the starting voltage, depending on the lamp and the operating current." 40–140 V
"When driven with DC voltage at their design current the voltage across the lamp is stable at a value near 90 volts." 90 V

Neon lamps are lights created when an electric current is put through a glass container that contained some sort of inert gas under low pressure. When this happens, the gas ionizes and glows a bright color. George Claude discovered this in 1910 when he ran an electrical current through a glass envelope of neon and it glowed a bright red. This device is also popularly known nowadays as a neon lamp. The amount of direct current voltage that is needed to get the gas to produce distinct colors varies between 60 and 100 volts for small indicator lights (indicators are small displays). The voltage for large retail displays is much greater, ranging from 2000 to 15,000 volts. The glass containers used for these purposes range from for to eight feet long and can be bent into miscellaneous shapes. Neon lamps are frequently seen bent into shapes of letters and used as signs for different facilities.

Most neon lamps are usually filled with neon gas, but not all are. Depending on the arrangement of gasses used for each lamp, it can produce up to 150 different colors. Neon lamps can have a lifespan of 10,000 to 25,000 hours and operate under a wide temperature range (between -40 to 150 degrees). They are also unaffected by mechanical shock or vibration, making them very usable under most conditions. Neon lamps became very popular in the 1920s due to its long lifespan and high endurance. Its used most commonly as advertisements in the present day.

Philip Yeung -- 2004