The Element Neon

The Element Neon
Made Easy To Understand

The element Neon is the lightest of the inert or Noble gases. Each Neon atom contains 10 protons in the nucleus. It does not react with any other elements under normal conditions, though its chemical properties have enabled it to be used in a wide variety of applications.

Isotopes of Neon

There are three stable and naturally occurring isotopes of Neon. The most common is 20-Neon, which contains 10 neutrons in addition to the 10 protons in the nucleus. This isotope is shown in the Bohr diagram to the right. 20-Neon makes up 90.5% of the Neon found on Earth. The remainder is a mixture of 21- and 22- Neon, with the second of these being the more common minor isotope.

Aside from these three, the full isotope range for Neon is from 6 to 24 neutrons, which can also be stated as a range from 16-Neon to 34-Neon. These are all highly unstable, are radioactive and have very short half lives ranging from 3 and a half minutes for 24-Neon down to 900 (billion trillion)ths of a second for 16-Ne.

The Electron Structure of Neon

With 10 electrons Neon has both a full first shell of 2 electrons and a full second shell of 8 electrons. We can see that if we put 10 electrons into the subshell filling pattern we get the electron configuration of 1s2 2s2 2p6. The eight outer shell electrons can then be arranged around the remainder of the atom to give the electron dot diagram for Neon as shown to the left.

The electron filling pattern can also be shown in more detail with the individual subshells shown, as follows:

Chemical Properties of the Element Neon

Since elements are maximally stable when they have 8 electrons in their outer shell, they will strive to acquire or share electrons from or with other elements until they achieve this state. This tendency to move towards 8 electrons is what causes elements to react with each other.

Neon, on the other hand, already has 8 electrons in its outer shell. For this reason it does not need to react with any elements to achieve this state. Therefore it is chemically inert, a non-reactive element.

Neon can be forced to react and form compounds under extreme laboratory conditions, but these are all unstable and the Neon atoms quickly break off again.

Uses for Neon

The most commonly known use for Neon is in Neon lighting. Not all bright and often artfully constructed lighting fixtures contain Neon, however. Neon, when excited by an electrical charge, produces a bright orange light. Other colors of “neon” lights are the result of other chemicals being used in the tubes.

Liquefied Neon is also a popular commercial refrigerant.