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What is the brightest neon color?

What is the brightest neon color?

Neon colors refer to the bright, intense colors produced by neon lighting. When neon gas is electrified, it emits a brightly colored light. Neon lighting was first developed in the early 20th century and became widespread in advertising signage in the 1920s. The characteristic bright, intense colors of neon lighting have made it popular for eye-catching signs, decorations, and artwork. But of all the possible neon colors, which one is the brightest and most intense?

How Neon Lighting Produces Color

Neon lighting works by running an electric current through glass tubes that have been filled with one of various neon or other noble gases. When the gas is electrified, its electrons shift to higher energy levels. As the electrons return to their resting states, they emit photons in the visible light spectrum, causing the neon gas to glow. Different noble gases emit different colors of light:

– Neon gas produces a red-orange color
– Argon gas produces a blue color
– Krypton gas produces a white color
– Xenon gas produces a blue-violet color

By blending these gases, neon lighting can produce a wide range of possible colors. The color emitted depends on the gas, gas pressure, and amount of electrical current. So in theory, any color of visible light can be achieved with the right neon gas mixture.

Measuring Light Intensity

To determine which neon color is the brightest, we need to consider the intensity of the emitted light. Light intensity refers to the amount of energy that the light carries per unit area, and it is linked to how bright the light appears. The standard unit of measure for light intensity is candela per square meter (cd/m2).

A couple key facts about light intensity:

– Intensity decreases proportionally to the square of the distance from the source based on the inverse-square law of light propagation. So intensity weakens rapidly with distance.

– Intensity is also dependent on the viewing angle, as light is typically brightest when viewed straight on rather than at an angle.

So when comparing the intensity of different neon colors, measurements should be taken at the same distance and angle for consistency. The maximum intensities are achieved by measuring perpendicular to the neon tube surface.

The Brightest Neon Colors

Of the various noble gases used in neon lighting, studies have found a few colors that produce the highest attainable intensities:

Gas Color Intensity (cd/m2)
Neon Red-orange 3400
Helium Yellow 8800
Nitrogen Blue-violet 2000
Xenon Blue-violet 3000

Based on maximum measured intensities, helium produces the brightest color in neon lighting. Mixing helium gas into neon tubes creates a yellow color with an intensity of 8800 cd/m2. This is over twice as intense as pure neon’s red-orange color.

While helium yellow is the single brightest neon color, blending helium with other gases can produce even higher intensities. Combining helium and neon produces an orangish-yellow color with intensity over 10,000 cd/m2. Mixing nitrogen and helium creates a bright pink color exceeding 9000 cd/m2.

So in summary, the brightest neon colors are:

– Helium yellow
– Helium + neon orange-yellow
– Nitrogen + helium pink

These gas mixtures allow neon lighting to produce some of the most intense colors possible. The light energy levels are close to the limits of what commercial neon tubes can sustain.

Factors Affecting Brightness

Several variables affect the apparent brightness and intensity of neon lighting:

Gas pressure – Increasing gas pressure inside the tubing boosts intensity up to an optimal level. Too high of pressure can cause instability.

Voltage – Higher voltage applied to the electrodes generates more intense light. But excess voltage can shorten tube lifespan.

Tube diameter – Smaller tube diameters help focus the neon glow, increasing apparent brightness.

Tube length – Longer tube lengths allow higher voltages and gas densities, increasing intensity.

Impurities – Contaminants and outgassing dull the neon color so high purity gases are used.

Phosphors – Coatings like phosphors can absorbs UV light and re-emit it at visible wavelengths, altering both color and intensity.

So factors like gas purity, tube dimensions, voltage, and phosphor use all impact the perceived color intensity. But helium-based neon mixtures offer the highest intensities under optimal conditions.

Applications of Bright Neon

The intense, attention-grabbing glow of neon makes it ideal for many commercial uses:

Signage – Brighter neon comes through clearly even in daylight and against city lighting. High intensity makes neon signs easily visible.

Decoration – Bright, vibrant neon art and decorations stand out in indoor spaces. The light color scintillates for visual impact.

Safety – Safety signs and signals need to immediately grab attention. A bright neon color is eye-catching when it matters most.

Science – High intensity discharge lamps are used for calibration and testing in labs and observatories. Their spectral output is well-defined.

Lighting – While less efficient than LEDs, neon lighting creates a distinctive glow for accent lighting.

So helium-charged neon tubes produce the desired bright, intense light for many neon applications. Their high intensity makes them noticeable and compelling.


In summary, helium yellow and helium-neon orange-yellow produce the brightest neon colors with intensities of 8800-10,000 cd/m2. Their bright glow comes from helium’s efficient light emission. Factors like gas purity, pressure, voltage, and tubing dimensions all affect the brightness. When properly engineered, helium-based neon lamps can generate some of the most vivid, radiant colors possible. Their brilliant visual impact makes them ideal for signs, decor, safety uses, and scientific applications. So next time you see an eye-catchingly bright neon glow, it is likely from a helium or helium-neon gas mixture inside the tube.