Neon Element Facts

The chemical element neon is classed as a noble gas and a nonmetal. It was discovered in 1898 by William Ramsay and Morris Travers.

Neon sign.

Neon gas spells 'open' with the help of a few thousand volts needed to ionize it.


Data Zone

Classification: Neon is a noble gas and a nonmetal
Color: colorless
Atomic weight: 20.180
State: gas
Melting point: -248.57 oC, 24.53 K
Boiling point: -246.0 oC, 27.1 K
Electrons: 10
Protons: 10
Neutrons in most abundant isotope: 10
Electron shells: 2,8
Electron configuration: 1s2 2s2 2p6
Density @ 20oC: 0.0009 g/cm3
Show more, including: Heats, Energies, Oxidation, Reactions, Compounds, Radii, Conductivities
Atomic volume: 16.7 cm3/mol
Structure: fcc: face-centered cubic
Specific heat capacity 0.904 J g-1 K-1
Heat of fusion 0.3317 kJ mol-1
Heat of atomization 0 kJ mol-1
Heat of vaporization 1.7326 kJ mol-1
1st ionization energy 2080.6 kJ mol-1
2nd ionization energy 3952.2 kJ mol-1
3rd ionization energy 6121.9 kJ mol-1
Electron affinity
Minimum oxidation number 0
Min. common oxidation no. 0
Maximum oxidation number 0
Max. common oxidation no. 0
Electronegativity (Pauling Scale)
Polarizability volume 0.396 Å3
Reaction with air none
Reaction with 15 M HNO3 none
Reaction with 6 M HCl none
Reaction with 6 M NaOH none
Oxide(s) none
Hydride(s) none
Chloride(s) none
Atomic radius 38 pm
Ionic radius (1+ ion)
Ionic radius (2+ ion)
Ionic radius (3+ ion)
Ionic radius (1- ion)
Ionic radius (2- ion)
Ionic radius (3- ion)
Thermal conductivity 0.05 W m-1 K-1
Electrical conductivity
Freezing/Melting point: -248.57 oC, 24.53 K

Neon Glow

The glow which so excited Travers is from neon. The neon gas in this image is also excited – ionized and emitting light.

Neon glowing in high voltage from Tesla coil.

Discovery of Neon

Dr. Doug Stewart

Neon was discovered in 1898 by William Ramsay and Morris Travers at University College London.

This was not the first time Ramsay had discovered a new element.

In 1894, he and Lord Rayleigh had discovered argon. Then, in 1895, Ramsay obtained the world’s first sample of helium. (Cleve and Langlet independently also obtained helium.)

Ramsay and Travers were aware an element must sit between helium and argon in the periodic table. But how could they find it?

Having found helium in a radioactive mineral, Ramsay thought it was possible he could find the new element in another such mineral. He and Travers spent some time working with a number of minerals, trying unsuccessfully to drive out some of the as yet undiscovered gas. (1)

Aware of the history of chemistry, Ramsay knew that sometimes one new element can hide another. For example, Berzelius discovered cerium in the mineral that came to be known as cerite. Some years later Mosander, one of Berzelius’s former students, who had continued to study cerite, discovered the new element lanthanum. Lanthanum had been present in the cerite all along, but Berzelius had not found it. Ramsay wondered about the possibility of finding small amounts of the elusive new element hiding in one of his earlier discoveries, argon.

Ramsay and Travers froze a sample of argon using liquid air. They then slowly evaporated the argon under reduced pressure and collected the first gas that came off.

To obtain the gas’s spectrum, Travers applied a high voltage to the gas in a vacuum tube and we may reasonably guess that his mouth fell open at what he saw.

He later commented, “the blaze of crimson light from the tube told its own story and was a sight to dwell upon and never forget… For the moment the actual spectrum of the gas did not matter in the least, for nothing in the world gave a glow such as we had seen.” (2)

This was the first time anyone had seen the glow of a neon light. Ramsay named the newly discovered element ‘neon’ which is Greek for ‘new.’

Interesting Facts about Neon

  • 0.0018 percent of Earth’s atmosphere is neon.
  • Although it is relatively rare on our planet, neon is the fifth most abundant element in the universe.
  • If you could gather all the neon from the rooms in a typical new home in the United States, you would get 10 liters (2 gallons) of neon gas. (3),(4)
  • Neon forms in stars with a mass of eight or more Earth suns.
    Near the end of their lives, these stars enter the carbon burning phase, also making oxygen, sodium and magnesium. (For oxygen production, stars need a mass of ‘just’ five of our suns.) (5),(6)
  • Neon has no stable compounds.

Glowing neon an exhibition of the Museum of Neon Art.


Appearance and Characteristics

Harmful effects:

Neon is not known to be toxic.


Neon is a light, very inert gas.

Colorless under normal conditions, it glows a reddish-orange in a vacuum discharge tube.

Neon forms no known stable compounds.

It has the smallest liquid range of any element (2.6 oC).

Uses of Neon

When a few thousand volts are applied to neon, it emits an orange/red light. It is therefore often used in brightly lit advertising signs. Georges Claude was the first person to make glass tubes of neon in 1910. He later bent the glass tubes to makes letters that glowed and produced the first neon advertising signs.

Neon is also used in high-voltage warning indicators, in Geiger counters and in television tubes.

Liquid neon is used as a cryogenic refrigerant.

Abundance and Isotopes

Abundance earth’s crust: 5 parts per billion by weight, 5 parts per billion by moles

Abundance solar system: 1,000 ppm by weight, 70 ppm by moles

Cost, pure: $33 per 100g

Cost, bulk: $ per 100g

Source: Neon is obtained commercially by fractional distillation of liquid air.

Isotopes: Neon has 14 isotopes whose half-lives are known, with mass numbers 16 to 29. Naturally occurring neon is a mixture of its three stable isotopes and they are found in the percentages shown: 20Ne (90.5%), 21Ne (0.7%) and 22Ne (9.2%).


1. Mary Elvira Weeks, J. Chem. Educ., 1932, 9 (10), p 1751.
2. Morris William Travers, The Discovery of the Rare Gases, 1928, Edward Arnold and Co.
3. Room to swing a cat? Hardly BBC Report
4. Origin of the Earth’s Atmosphere
5. Post-Main Sequence Stars
6. William J. Kaufman III, Universe, 1987, W. H. Freeman and Company, New York, p434

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  1. I just love this website. It’s very useful in class because we are learning about the periodic table. At first I thought it was going to boring and hard to learn about ALL of the elements.
    Thanks, Chemicool for making science more fun!
    5th grade

  2. i love this website it very helpful at times . It has very good informatin on the elements . I really enjoyed my research on the Neon element.
    8th grade

  3. Carley mariie13 says:

    I Liked This Website. The Only Thing I Couldnt Find Was Where Neon Can Be Currently Found&& How Its Made.. Thanks For The Help Tho. 🙂

    • Hi Carly Mariie13,

      Neon is in the air all around us, but it’s only a small part of air: 54,900 liters of dry air contains 1 liter of neon.

      Another way of saying this is that air contains 0.00182% neon by volume.

      We get neon by fractional distillation of liquid air, which means we cool air until it’s a liquid. Then we can split it into the different gases that make it up by slowly heating it until the different gases boil off at different temperatures, depending on their individual boiling points.

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    2nd Grade !

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    -sincerely 9th grader

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      -Sincerely an 11th grader.

  6. I didn’t even know that it was possible to buy the elements. XD The one that my prof. assigned me was no. 10, NEON. Personally, I was Expecting it to be $10.00. When I look, $30.00, I was like, wow. Thanks sooooo much for helping me with my project.

    -Sincerely a 6th grader.

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    The information on here is fabulous though!

  8. This website is so interesting. I love it


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    10/11th Grader .

  10. i think this website is very helpful. we had to do a report on an element and i chose neon. at first when i started research i thought that there was NO information on the element until i found this website. MY FAVORITE WEBSITE! that i used on this report!
    6 grader

  11. doug burke says:

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  12. This website is awesome!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. hello. i just wanted to say that i love this page. right now im doing this research of neon for my science class and im almost done researeching 🙂 the only thing that i cant find is the “Normal Phases” for neon

    • Hi Diana, neon is in the gas phase at room temperature/atmospheric pressure.

      You need to cool it to -246.0 degrees Celcius at atmospheric pressure to liquify it.

  14. this website is so cool

  15. I love this website. It did almost my entire project. All i need left it the history of it. Not to be confused with discovery.
    -7th grader

  16. Thank you Chemicool! This website is so fun! I am only in 3rd grade learning about neon and I thought it would be BORING. But no it’s really fun thanks to you Chemicool! Thank you so much keep up the good work!