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Last update 12/08/2010


Misc Neon Stuff
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since 05/27/07


This is where I put neon stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else.


The above photo is of a globe filled with neon and a small amount of propane gas.  The combination makes for some very interesting standing waves.  Unfortunately the propane is fairly rapidly cleaned up by the plasma so the effect is short lived.

A question recently arose about how to provide bright colored safety lights on a race track where there isn't any utility power.  Coincidentally, I had recently purchased some colored compact fluorescent lamps from  These Chicom-made lamps use conventional CFL electronic ballast technology but use "classic" rare earth phosphor-coated glass instead of the usual clear glass.  These are available in all the regular classic glass colors from makers like Tecnolux.  The major difference between neon and CFL is that these lamps are BRIGHT!

Since the application would use a 12 volt storage battery, I decided to lash up a system and make some measurements.  In the photo at left you see:

* A 17amp-hour AGM type battery
* A Watts Up DC volt/amp/wattmeter
* An inexpensive 70 watt Vector inverter
* A convenience outlet to screw bulb adapter
* The CFL

Before connecting the CFL to the inverter, I tested it on line voltage using a Kill-a-Watt power analyzer to record its electrical characteristics.  They are as follows:

Nom. Wattage 24
Actual Watts 16
Volts 120.5
Amps 0.25
Volt-amps 31
Power factor 0.52

Next, I lashed up the system as described above:

Volts 12.30
Amps 1.58
Watts 19.0

Note that the above parameters between the inverter and the battery and include inverter losses. 

As is usual with ChiCom-manufactured products, they are fast and loose with the specs.  This is probably a "24 watt" ballast when used with conventional glass but the smaller colored glass and perhaps different fill gas pressure results in the lamp drawing considerably less power than its rating.  In this case, this is good.

Using a 17 amp-hour battery as pictured, a lamp would run

17/1.58 = 10.8 hours continuously. 

A 30 amp-hour AGM battery (about twice the size and weight) would run better than 22 hours.  Either would probably be enough for a full day's racing.

This is a not-too-great photo of Uranium glass tubing.  This kind of glass contains a little (1-3%) uranium metal as colorant.  It makes a glass that is yellowish in normal light but fluoresces lemon yellow under ultraviolet light.  This is essentially the same glass as Vaseline antique glass.

When stimulated by the UV from argon/mercury as in this photo, the yellow fluorescence  mixes with the bluish light from the merc and makes this greenish-yellow color.  The two yellow dots on the middle of each side are artifacts from the cheap digital camera I was using at the time.

Also visible in this photo is the intense blue fluorescence that normal clear lead glass produces when stimulated with UV.  The clear electrode housings are leaded glass.
Roland plotter drivers.  Roland plotters use HPGL just like hewlett-packard plotters.  HPGL drivers for anything above Windows 3.1 are no longer available from either HP or Microsoft.  Fortunately the Roland drivers are compatible.  They no longer seem to be available from the Roland website so I'm offering them here.  These drivers will allow you to use a Roland or HP or any other HPGL-based plotter with XP.  These probably won't work with Vista but then, who cares?