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Like all other elements in the Noble gas family, neon, obtained from liquid air, is a colourless and odourless gas. Very little of this element is present in the Earth's atmosphere, but copious amounts are found in the universe due to its release from the explosions of stars.
In its liquid state, neon serves as an important cryogenic refrigerant as it is compact and relatively inexpensive.
Neon is often used in ornamental lighting, such as neon signs. Displays glow red when an electrical discharge flows through the gas. Neon atoms collide with electrons from the passing current, thereby exciting the atoms, which emit red light upon relaxation. The brilliance produced is also useful as a voltage detector.
The National Research Council Canada's 3D colour digitizer makes use of neon to produce its red laser line, one of the three required to create coloured 3D images. Digital files of physical objects from this world-leading 3D scanning technology can be transmitted and printed, viewed in 3D format with virtual reality technologies, and used in documentation, design, medical applications, and visual communications including "virtual" museums.