Fractional Distillation and Neon

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Neon (Ne) is a noble gas that is found in only trace amounts on Earth. It is a less dense gas than air and is also less stable. It can be produced by a process called fractional distillation.

Fractional distillation divides liquid air into different parts according to its boiling point. The substances that have the lowest boiling points are transformed into gases and are removed from the remaining liquid. The elements that have the highest boiling points remain in the liquid state as they heat up.

Several noble gases can be separated from liquid air by this method, including argon, oxygen, nitrogen, krypton, and xenon. These can be enriched and purified by further separation processes.

First, the enriched mixture is pumped through an apparatus called an air-fractionating unit to separate it from the volatile components that are naturally present in the air. Then, the helium and neon are further fractionated by a dephlegmator-adsorber that almost completes the noble gas separation process.

The resulting helium-neon binary mixture is then cooled to the temperature of liquid helium in an overhead condenser. This gives a concentration of about 30-75% neon and 10-25% helium.

Although neon is a rare element, it is used in the electronics industry for the production of semiconductor chips and devices. It is also widely used in consumer electronics products and lasers for applications such as lighting. In recent years, the semiconductor industry has faced challenges with supply and price increases. This is largely due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent disruptions of the neon gas supply chain.

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