With the current neon shortages appearing to fan out across the globe, news has emerged from Japan of the first measures being implemented to reduce consumption of the gas.

Gigaphoton, a manufacturer of excimer lasers, began offering a comprehensive recovery package this summer, called the ‘Neon Gas Rescue Programme’.

Targeting semiconductor producers in particular, the neon recovery programme has been introduced to cope with the recent uncertainty regarding the procurement of the gas.

Neon has historically been in over-supply. While the former Soviet Union manufactured all of its oxygen plants for steel mills with neon, krypton and xenon capabilities and formerly worked on high-powered lasers as weapons, giving rise to significant neon capacity, from 1990 to 2012 many of these eastern European plants simply blew the crude neon to the atmosphere as no one would buy it.

This over-supply continued on through 2013, but began to tighten in 2014 – gasworld understands – as many old oxygen plants in Eastern Europe were either replaced by newer units without neon capability or shutdown altogether, especially with the contraction of the steel industry. At the same time, China added capacity of pure neon and moved from a net importer to a net exporter.

The net effect is around 125 million litres of lost annual production over those three years and a situation in 2015 where neon production totals around 400 million litres per year, with demand of around 475 million litres.

With these shortages beginning to be felt in Japan, The Gas Review (TGR) notes, Gigaphoton is among those working to reduce consumption. The Neon Gas Rescue Programme comprises three solutions: the first greatly reduces the time for evaluating the quality of the gas and enables the use of new gas suppliers in as fast as one month; the second is to offer the most suitable technology on a wide basis, the eco-Total Gas Management (eTGM) equipment; and the third proposal involves the development and offering of Gigaphoton’s newest recycling technology.

The technology for recycling mentioned in the third proposal is currently under development, TGR understands.