I was watching some Youtube videos of people microwaving helium and neon in a microwave. I could not find anything showing hydrogen in a microwave. However, as I was watching the videos I noticed the gases tend to light up as they are being heated. In all honesty, if I had to compare what I was seeing to anything else I have observed, I would have to say a coronal mass ejection. I know how absurd that sounds, fusion right. However, the two look remarkably similar. So my question then is, what exactly is causing these noble gases to light up as if they were about to release enormous amounts of energy? Also, would similar phenomena occur with hydrogen? I imagine so.

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    $\begingroup$ A coronal mass ejection isn't a fusion reaction, it's just a large emission of plasma from the solar corona. $\endgroup$
    – Triatticus
    May 27, 2019 at 21:46
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    $\begingroup$ Do NOT try to heat hydrogen in a microwave oven. Hydrogen is extremely flammable, and will easily explode in the presence of air, which will blow the door off of your microwave oven and cause injury and damage to people and objects in the vicinity. $\endgroup$ Jan 23, 2020 at 19:41
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    $\begingroup$ I once ran a photomultiplier tube at 2000V in pure neon. Bad move, much like the premise for this question. $\endgroup$
    – JEB
    Feb 23, 2020 at 18:42

1 Answer 1


I don't know the conditions of the experiments where they microwaved helium and neon. I saw some videos where they microwaved, say, helium balloons, but I guess the results would critically depend on the conductivity of the envelope. So can gases light up in a microwave (if they are in an insulating container)? It depends on the pressure of the gases. If the pressure is appropriate, microwave radiation will cause a gas discharge, similar to that in gas discharge lamps, and you'll see electromagnetic radiation (as part of it will be visible) from the discharge. This will happen for hydrogen as well. I cannot give specific values of pressure right now.


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