Neon Discharge Lamps

Updated
17-IV-2005
The first neon discharge lamp was invented by the French engineer and scientist Georges Claude, who first applied an electric current through a neon-filled glass tube around 1902. On December 11th 1910 he demonstrated his brilliantly glowing luminous tubes to the public in Paris. However it was not until 1923 that the business potential of the neon lamp was realised, when his company, Claude Neon, supplied two signs to an American car dealership with the glass tube being bent to spell out the name of the firm "Packard". Those signs sold for a phenomenal $24,000, and kicked off the modern neon sign industry. Claude eventually became part of Sylvania Electric Products, and indeed his name lives on in France today through Sylvania's popular Claude brand name for its lighting products sold in that country. Outside of the neon sign industry, the linear neon lamp is manufactured today only by GE Lighting UK, in the form of the Airfield Hazard lamp shown below.

A second family of neon lamp was the negative glow type, invented by Daniel MacFarlan Moore of General Electric USA. He discovered that a glow will envelop the cathode electrode of a lamp evacuated to a suitably low pressure and filled with one of the inert gases. By operating the lamp on alternating current, the polarity is reversed so rapidly that both electrodes appear to glow, and a useful miniature indicator lamp was developed.

Positive Column Discharge

GEC

400W

NE/H Linear Neon Floodlighting Lamp
1975

Thorn

160W

NE/H Linear Neon Airfield Hazard Warning
1990
   

Negative Glow Discharge

GE

0.25W

NE-45 neon indicator with internal resistance
c. 1960

GE

3W

NE-42 high power neon indicator lamp
c. 1970

Ediswan

2W

Neon Pilot lamp with internal resistance
c.1945

Mazda

0.5W

Neon Indicator lamp with internal resistance
1966

Mazda

0.5W

Neon Indicator lamp for external resistance
1950

Osram

0.1W

Miniature neon indicator with lens end
c. 1985

Osglim

5W

Beehive neon spiral with internal ballast resistor
1945

Osglim

5W

Beehive neon with Letter electrode for signs
1935

Atlas

5W

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
1952

Miscellaneous Devices

Sylvania

Strobotron neon stroboscope lamp
c. 1950