You see the signs everywhere you go - red,
green, yellow, blue - flashing colors in the
darkness of night. Evening outings would be
very dull without neon signs. Neon signs tell
us when stores are open, and whether or not
a motel has a vacancy. They advertise everything
from bowling alleys to nightclubs. What would
Las Vegas be without its glittery neon signs?
Just about everyone is familiar with neon signs,
but do you know what makes them glow? Neon
is a gas, one of the noble gases in the Periodic
Table of Elements. It shares its inert properties
with the other noble gases - argon, krypton,
xenon, and radon. When electricity passes through
these gases, they give off a glow. This glow
is the basis for neon signs.
In the last few years, neon has begun to show
up in places other than advertising. Neon artists
have begun to use glass neon tubing in sculptures
large and small. Some neon artists combine
neon art with other media to create one-of-a-kind
pieces. Some of these neon sculptures can even
light up in sequence as music plays. What are
the properties of the noble gases that allow
them to be used in neon signs? Where do the
colors in neon signs come from? How many different
colors can be made in neon signs? What happens
inside neon tubes to create the characteristic
glow? In this WebQuest, you will find out the
answers to these questions as you explore the
art of neon.
Your job in this WebQuest is to explore the
chemistry behind neon signs, and learn how
the different colors of these signs are made.
You will discover exactly how the noble gases
are inserted into glass tubing, and how the
gases are made to glow. You will also learn
how different colors of neon signs are created.
You will find out how neon glass tubing can
be bent and how neon artists create their works
of art. Then you will answer a set of questions
about neon signs. Finally, you will design
your own piece of neon art.
Look at the web sites given here to find the
information that will enable you to answer
the questions about neon signs and design your
own piece of neon art.
- The Periodic Table on the WWW.
Visit this site for information on the noble
gases. You can click on any element in this
periodic table to read about that element
and its properties. Click on any of the noble
gases to find out about that element.
History of Neon Signs.
Visit this site to learn about the inventor
of the first neon lamp. You can find out
how neon signs are made here, and about what
colors are produced by using the elements
argon and mercury.
of Neon Art.
At this site you can see how artists are
using neon tubing in artworks. Scroll down
and click on web gallery to see some neon
art pieces presently on exhibit at this museum.
Visit this site to see all kinds of uses
for neon signs as art. Click on free standing
sculptures to see some wonderful examples
of neon art.
1 class period for research, answering the
set of questions, and designing a piece of
Read through the following set of questions
before you begin your Internet research. As
you explore each site, look for answers to
Questions about The Art of Neon
- Who discovered neon and when? Who first
produced a neon lamp?
- Which of the noble gases produce a colored
glow when excited by electricity passing
through a glass tube in which the gas is
confined? Name the gas and the characteristic
color it produces.
- Which of the noble gases is most often
used in neon signs?
- How is the gas introduced into the glass
tubing used in neon signs?
- How does a neon tube produce light?
- What are the three different ways colored
light can be produced in neon tubing?
- How long does a neon sign last?
- How many different colors can now be produced
in neon tubing?
Once you have finished your Internet research
and answered the above questions, you can begin
to think about the design of your piece of
neon art. Decide on what object you wish to
depict. Think about the colors you want to
include. If you need help, go back to the sites
that offer neon art pieces for some ideas.
You will need to draw your design and identify
what colors you plan to use. If you can, identify
what type of tubing you will use from question
6 above, and identify the gas or gases that
will provide the colors you choose. Give an
indication of size of the object as well.
In the process of completing this WebQuest,
you've become informed about the chemistry
of neon and other noble gases. You have discovered
how neon signs are made and what goes on inside
the glass tubing to produce the colors that
we see. You have learned about three ways to
produce a wide variety of colors in neon signs.
You have developed research skills as you explored
the web sites given and identified the relevant
information to answer the set of questions
above. You have also explored the use of neon
tubing in art and designed an art piece of
your own. Did you know that other gases besides
neon are used in neon signs? Krypton gas produces
a white light when electricity passes through
it. Why isn't krypton used in neon signs?