Noble gas
Overview
 


The noble gases are a group of chemical element
Chemical element
A chemical element is a pure chemical substance consisting of one type of atom distinguished by its atomic number, which is the number of protons in its nucleus. Familiar examples of elements include carbon, oxygen, aluminum, iron, copper, gold, mercury, and lead.As of November 2011, 118 elements...

s with very similar properties: under standard conditions, they are all odorless, colorless, monatomic gases, with very low chemical reactivity. The six noble gases that occur naturally are helium (He)
Helium
Helium is the chemical element with atomic number 2 and an atomic weight of 4.002602, which is represented by the symbol He. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas that heads the noble gas group in the periodic table...

, neon (Ne)
Neon
Neon is the chemical element that has the symbol Ne and an atomic number of 10. Although a very common element in the universe, it is rare on Earth. A colorless, inert noble gas under standard conditions, neon gives a distinct reddish-orange glow when used in either low-voltage neon glow lamps or...

, argon (Ar)
Argon
Argon is a chemical element represented by the symbol Ar. Argon has atomic number 18 and is the third element in group 18 of the periodic table . Argon is the third most common gas in the Earth's atmosphere, at 0.93%, making it more common than carbon dioxide...

, krypton (Kr)
Krypton
Krypton is a chemical element with the symbol Kr and atomic number 36. It is a member of Group 18 and Period 4 elements. A colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas, krypton occurs in trace amounts in the atmosphere, is isolated by fractionally distilling liquified air, and is often used with other...

, xenon (Xe)
Xenon
Xenon is a chemical element with the symbol Xe and atomic number 54. The element name is pronounced or . A colorless, heavy, odorless noble gas, xenon occurs in the Earth's atmosphere in trace amounts...

, and the radioactive radon (Rn)
Radon
Radon is a chemical element with symbol Rn and atomic number 86. It is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas, occurring naturally as the decay product of uranium or thorium. Its most stable isotope, 222Rn, has a half-life of 3.8 days...

.

For the first six periods of the periodic table, the noble gases are exactly the members of group 18 of the periodic table
Periodic table
The periodic table of the chemical elements is a tabular display of the 118 known chemical elements organized by selected properties of their atomic structures. Elements are presented by increasing atomic number, the number of protons in an atom's atomic nucleus...

.
However, this no longer holds in the seventh period (due to relativistic effects): the next member of group 18, ununoctium
Ununoctium
Ununoctium is the temporary IUPAC name for the transactinide element having the atomic number 118 and temporary element symbol Uuo. It is also known as eka-radon or element 118, and on the periodic table of the elements it is a p-block element and the last one of the 7th period. Ununoctium is...

, is probably not a noble gas.
Discussions
Encyclopedia
Group 18
Period 1
Period 1 element
A period 1 element is one of the chemical elements in the first row of the periodic table of the chemical elements. The periodic table is laid out in rows to illustrate recurring trends in the chemical behaviour of the elements as their atomic number increases: a new row is begun when chemical...

2
Period 2 element
A period 2 element is one of the chemical elements in the second row of the periodic table. The periodic table is laid out in rows to illustrate recurring trends in the chemical behavior of the elements as their atomic number increases; a new row is started when chemical behavior begins to...

3
Period 3 element
A period 3 element is one of the chemical elements in the third row of the periodic table of the chemical elements. The periodic table is laid out in rows to illustrate recurring trends in the chemical behaviour of the elements as their atomic number increases: a new row is begun when chemical...

4
Period 4 element
A period 4 element is one of the chemical elements in the fourth row of the periodic table of the elements. The periodic table is laid out in rows to illustrate recurring trends in the chemical behaviour of the elements as their atomic number increases: a new row is begun when chemical behaviour...

5
Period 5 element
A period 5 element is one of the chemical elements in the fifth row of the periodic table of the elements. The periodic table is laid out in rows to illustrate recurring trends in the chemical behaviour of the elements as their atomic number increases: a new row is begun when chemical behaviour...

6
Period 6 element
A period 6 element is one of the chemical elements in the sixth row of the periodic table of the elements, including the lanthanides...



The noble gases are a group of chemical element
Chemical element
A chemical element is a pure chemical substance consisting of one type of atom distinguished by its atomic number, which is the number of protons in its nucleus. Familiar examples of elements include carbon, oxygen, aluminum, iron, copper, gold, mercury, and lead.As of November 2011, 118 elements...

s with very similar properties: under standard conditions, they are all odorless, colorless, monatomic gases, with very low chemical reactivity. The six noble gases that occur naturally are helium (He)
Helium
Helium is the chemical element with atomic number 2 and an atomic weight of 4.002602, which is represented by the symbol He. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas that heads the noble gas group in the periodic table...

, neon (Ne)
Neon
Neon is the chemical element that has the symbol Ne and an atomic number of 10. Although a very common element in the universe, it is rare on Earth. A colorless, inert noble gas under standard conditions, neon gives a distinct reddish-orange glow when used in either low-voltage neon glow lamps or...

, argon (Ar)
Argon
Argon is a chemical element represented by the symbol Ar. Argon has atomic number 18 and is the third element in group 18 of the periodic table . Argon is the third most common gas in the Earth's atmosphere, at 0.93%, making it more common than carbon dioxide...

, krypton (Kr)
Krypton
Krypton is a chemical element with the symbol Kr and atomic number 36. It is a member of Group 18 and Period 4 elements. A colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas, krypton occurs in trace amounts in the atmosphere, is isolated by fractionally distilling liquified air, and is often used with other...

, xenon (Xe)
Xenon
Xenon is a chemical element with the symbol Xe and atomic number 54. The element name is pronounced or . A colorless, heavy, odorless noble gas, xenon occurs in the Earth's atmosphere in trace amounts...

, and the radioactive radon (Rn)
Radon
Radon is a chemical element with symbol Rn and atomic number 86. It is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas, occurring naturally as the decay product of uranium or thorium. Its most stable isotope, 222Rn, has a half-life of 3.8 days...

.

For the first six periods of the periodic table, the noble gases are exactly the members of group 18 of the periodic table
Periodic table
The periodic table of the chemical elements is a tabular display of the 118 known chemical elements organized by selected properties of their atomic structures. Elements are presented by increasing atomic number, the number of protons in an atom's atomic nucleus...

.
However, this no longer holds in the seventh period (due to relativistic effects): the next member of group 18, ununoctium
Ununoctium
Ununoctium is the temporary IUPAC name for the transactinide element having the atomic number 118 and temporary element symbol Uuo. It is also known as eka-radon or element 118, and on the periodic table of the elements it is a p-block element and the last one of the 7th period. Ununoctium is...

, is probably not a noble gas. Instead, group 14 member ununquadium
Ununquadium
Ununquadium is the temporary name of a radioactive chemical element with the temporary symbol Uuq and atomic number 114. There is no proposed name yet, although flerovium has been discussed in the media.About 80 decays of atoms of...

 exhibits noble-gas-like properties.

The properties of the noble gases can be well explained by modern theories of atomic structure: their outer shell
Electron shell
An electron shell may be thought of as an orbit followed by electrons around an atom's nucleus. The closest shell to the nucleus is called the "1 shell" , followed by the "2 shell" , then the "3 shell" , and so on further and further from the nucleus. The shell letters K,L,M,.....

 of valence electron
Valence electron
In chemistry, valence electrons are the electrons of an atom that can participate in the formation of chemical bonds with other atoms. Valence electrons are the "own" electrons, present in the free neutral atom, that combine with valence electrons of other atoms to form chemical bonds. In a single...

s is considered to be "full", giving them little tendency to participate in chemical reactions, and it has only been possible to prepare a few hundred noble gas compound
Noble gas compound
Noble gas compounds are chemical compounds that include an element from Group 18 of the periodic table, the noble gases.-History and background:...

s. The melting
Melting point
The melting point of a solid is the temperature at which it changes state from solid to liquid. At the melting point the solid and liquid phase exist in equilibrium. The melting point of a substance depends on pressure and is usually specified at standard atmospheric pressure...

 and boiling point
Boiling point
The boiling point of an element or a substance is the temperature at which the vapor pressure of the liquid equals the environmental pressure surrounding the liquid....

s for each noble gas are close together, differing by less than 10 C-change; consequently, they are liquids over only a small temperature range.

Neon, argon, krypton, and xenon are obtained from air using the methods of liquefaction of gases
Liquefaction of gases
Liquefaction of gases includes a number of phases used to convert a gas into a liquid state. The processes are used for scientific, industrial and commercial purposes. Many gases can be put into a liquid state at normal atmospheric pressure by simple cooling; a few, such as carbon dioxide, require...

 and fractional distillation
Fractional distillation
Fractional distillation is the separation of a mixture into its component parts, or fractions, such as in separating chemical compounds by their boiling point by heating them to a temperature at which several fractions of the compound will evaporate. It is a special type of distillation...

. Helium is typically separated from natural gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

, and radon is usually isolated from the radioactive decay
Radioactive decay
Radioactive decay is the process by which an atomic nucleus of an unstable atom loses energy by emitting ionizing particles . The emission is spontaneous, in that the atom decays without any physical interaction with another particle from outside the atom...

 of dissolved radium
Radium
Radium is a chemical element with atomic number 88, represented by the symbol Ra. Radium is an almost pure-white alkaline earth metal, but it readily oxidizes on exposure to air, becoming black in color. All isotopes of radium are highly radioactive, with the most stable isotope being radium-226,...

 compounds. Noble gases have several important applications in industries such as lighting, welding, and space exploration. A helium-oxygen breathing gas is often used by deep-sea divers at depths of seawater over 180 feet (54.9 m) to keep the diver from experiencing oxygen toxemia
Oxygen toxicity
Oxygen toxicity is a condition resulting from the harmful effects of breathing molecular oxygen at elevated partial pressures. It is also known as oxygen toxicity syndrome, oxygen intoxication, and oxygen poisoning...

, the lethal effect of high-pressure oxygen, and nitrogen narcosis
Nitrogen narcosis
Narcosis while diving , is a reversible alteration in consciousness that occurs while scuba diving at depth. The Greek word ναρκωσις is derived from narke, "temporary decline or loss of senses and movement, numbness", a term used by Homer and Hippocrates...

, the distracting narcotic effect of the nitrogen in air beyond this partial-pressure threshold. After the risks caused by the flammability of hydrogen
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 became apparent, it was replaced with helium in blimps
Non-rigid airship
A blimp, or non-rigid airship, is a floating airship without an internal supporting framework or keel. A non-rigid airship differs from a semi-rigid airship and a rigid airship in that it does not have any rigid structure, neither a complete framework nor a partial keel, to help the airbag...

 and balloons
Gas balloon
A gas balloon is any balloon that stays aloft due to being filled with a gas less dense than air or lighter than air . A gas balloon may also be called a Charlière for its inventor, the Frenchman Jacques Charles. Today, familiar gas balloons include large blimps and small rubber party balloons...

.

History

Noble gas is translated from the German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 noun , first used in 1898 by Hugo Erdmann
Hugo Erdmann
Hugo Wilhelm Traugott Erdmann was the German chemist who discovered, together with his doctoral advisor Jacob Volhard, the Volhard-Erdmann cyclization...

 to indicate their extremely low level of reactivity. The name makes an analogy to the term "noble metal
Noble metal
Noble metals are metals that are resistant to corrosion and oxidation in moist air, unlike most base metals. They tend to be precious, often due to their rarity in the Earth's crust...

s", which also have low reactivity. The noble gases have also been referred to as inert gas
Inert gas
An inert gas is a non-reactive gas used during chemical synthesis, chemical analysis, or preservation of reactive materials. Inert gases are selected for specific settings for which they are functionally inert since the cost of the gas and the cost of purifying the gas are usually a consideration...

es
, but this label is now deprecated as many noble gas compounds are now known. Rare gases is another term that was used, but this is also inaccurate because argon
Argon
Argon is a chemical element represented by the symbol Ar. Argon has atomic number 18 and is the third element in group 18 of the periodic table . Argon is the third most common gas in the Earth's atmosphere, at 0.93%, making it more common than carbon dioxide...

 forms a fairly considerable part (0.94% by volume, 1.3% by mass) of the Earth's atmosphere
Earth's atmosphere
The atmosphere of Earth is a layer of gases surrounding the planet Earth that is retained by Earth's gravity. The atmosphere protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention , and reducing temperature extremes between day and night...

.
Pierre Janssen and Joseph Norman Lockyer
Joseph Norman Lockyer
Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer, FRS , known simply as Norman Lockyer, was an English scientist and astronomer. Along with the French scientist Pierre Janssen he is credited with discovering the gas helium...

 discovered a new element on August 18, 1868 while looking at the chromosphere
Chromosphere
The chromosphere is a thin layer of the Sun's atmosphere just above the photosphere, roughly 2,000 kilometers deep....

 of the Sun
Sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

, and named it helium
Helium
Helium is the chemical element with atomic number 2 and an atomic weight of 4.002602, which is represented by the symbol He. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas that heads the noble gas group in the periodic table...

 after the Greek word for the Sun, ( or ). No chemical analysis was possible at the time, but helium was later found to be a noble gas. Before them, in 1784, the English chemist and physicist Henry Cavendish
Henry Cavendish
Henry Cavendish FRS was a British scientist noted for his discovery of hydrogen or what he called "inflammable air". He described the density of inflammable air, which formed water on combustion, in a 1766 paper "On Factitious Airs". Antoine Lavoisier later reproduced Cavendish's experiment and...

 had discovered that air contains a small proportion of a substance less reactive than nitrogen
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

. A century later, in 1895, Lord Rayleigh
John Strutt, 3rd Baron Rayleigh
John William Strutt, 3rd Baron Rayleigh, OM was an English physicist who, with William Ramsay, discovered the element argon, an achievement for which he earned the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1904...

 discovered that samples of nitrogen from the air were of a different density
Density
The mass density or density of a material is defined as its mass per unit volume. The symbol most often used for density is ρ . In some cases , density is also defined as its weight per unit volume; although, this quantity is more properly called specific weight...

 than nitrogen resulting from chemical reaction
Chemical reaction
A chemical reaction is a process that leads to the transformation of one set of chemical substances to another. Chemical reactions can be either spontaneous, requiring no input of energy, or non-spontaneous, typically following the input of some type of energy, such as heat, light or electricity...

s. Along with scientist William Ramsay
William Ramsay
Sir William Ramsay was a Scottish chemist who discovered the noble gases and received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1904 "in recognition of his services in the discovery of the inert gaseous elements in air" .-Early years:Ramsay was born in Glasgow on 2...

 at University College, London, Lord Rayleigh theorized that the nitrogen extracted from air was mixed with another gas, leading to an experiment that successfully isolated a new element, argon, from the Greek word (, "inactive"). With this discovery, they realized an entire class of gas
Gas
Gas is one of the three classical states of matter . Near absolute zero, a substance exists as a solid. As heat is added to this substance it melts into a liquid at its melting point , boils into a gas at its boiling point, and if heated high enough would enter a plasma state in which the electrons...

es was missing from the periodic table. During his search for argon, Ramsay also managed to isolate helium for the first time while heating cleveite
Cleveite
Cleveite is a radioactive mineral containing uranium and found in Norway. It is an impure variety of uraninite, and has the composition UO2 with about 10% of the uranium substituted by rare earth elements...

, a mineral. In 1902, having accepted the evidence for the elements helium and argon, Dmitri Mendeleev
Dmitri Mendeleev
Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev , was a Russian chemist and inventor. He is credited as being the creator of the first version of the periodic table of elements...

 included these noble gases as group 0 in his arrangement of the elements, which would later become the periodic table.

Ramsay continued to search for these gases using the method of fractional distillation
Fractional distillation
Fractional distillation is the separation of a mixture into its component parts, or fractions, such as in separating chemical compounds by their boiling point by heating them to a temperature at which several fractions of the compound will evaporate. It is a special type of distillation...

 to separate liquid air
Liquid air
Liquid air is air that has been cooled to very low temperatures so that it has condensed to a pale blue mobile liquid. To protect it from room temperature, it must be kept in a vacuum flask. Liquid air can absorb heat rapidly and revert to its gaseous state...

 into several components. In 1898, he discovered the elements krypton
Krypton
Krypton is a chemical element with the symbol Kr and atomic number 36. It is a member of Group 18 and Period 4 elements. A colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas, krypton occurs in trace amounts in the atmosphere, is isolated by fractionally distilling liquified air, and is often used with other...

, neon
Neon
Neon is the chemical element that has the symbol Ne and an atomic number of 10. Although a very common element in the universe, it is rare on Earth. A colorless, inert noble gas under standard conditions, neon gives a distinct reddish-orange glow when used in either low-voltage neon glow lamps or...

, and xenon
Xenon
Xenon is a chemical element with the symbol Xe and atomic number 54. The element name is pronounced or . A colorless, heavy, odorless noble gas, xenon occurs in the Earth's atmosphere in trace amounts...

, and named them after the Greek words (, "hidden"), (, "new"), and (, "stranger"), respectively. Radon
Radon
Radon is a chemical element with symbol Rn and atomic number 86. It is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas, occurring naturally as the decay product of uranium or thorium. Its most stable isotope, 222Rn, has a half-life of 3.8 days...

 was first identified in 1898 by Friedrich Ernst Dorn
Friedrich Ernst Dorn
Friedrich Ernst Dorn was a German physicist who was the first to discover that a radioactive substance, later named radon, is emitted from radium.-Life and work:...

, and was named radium emanation, but was not considered a noble gas until 1904 when its characteristics were found to be similar to those of other noble gases. Rayleigh and Ramsay received the 1904 Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

s in Physics and in Chemistry, respectively, for their discovery of the noble gases; in the words of J. E. Cederblom, then president of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences or Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien is one of the Royal Academies of Sweden. The Academy is an independent, non-governmental scientific organization which acts to promote the sciences, primarily the natural sciences and mathematics.The Academy was founded on 2...

, "the discovery of an entirely new group of elements, of which no single representative had been known with any certainty, is something utterly unique in the history of chemistry, being intrinsically an advance in science of peculiar significance".

The discovery of the noble gases aided in the development of a general understanding of atomic structure
Atomic theory
In chemistry and physics, atomic theory is a theory of the nature of matter, which states that matter is composed of discrete units called atoms, as opposed to the obsolete notion that matter could be divided into any arbitrarily small quantity...

. In 1895, French chemist Henri Moissan
Henri Moissan
Ferdinand Frederick Henri Moissan was a French chemist who won the 1906 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in isolating fluorine from its compounds.-Biography:...

 attempted to form a reaction between fluorine
Fluorine
Fluorine is the chemical element with atomic number 9, represented by the symbol F. It is the lightest element of the halogen column of the periodic table and has a single stable isotope, fluorine-19. At standard pressure and temperature, fluorine is a pale yellow gas composed of diatomic...

, the most electronegative
Electronegativity
Electronegativity, symbol χ , is a chemical property that describes the tendency of an atom or a functional group to attract electrons towards itself. An atom's electronegativity is affected by both its atomic number and the distance that its valence electrons reside from the charged nucleus...

 element, and argon, one of the noble gases, but failed. Scientists were unable to prepare compounds of argon until the end of the 20th century, but these attempts helped to develop new theories of atomic structure. Learning from these experiments, Danish physicist Niels Bohr
Niels Bohr
Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in...

 proposed in 1913 that the electron
Electron
The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative elementary electric charge. It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle. An electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton...

s in atoms are arranged in shells
Electron shell
An electron shell may be thought of as an orbit followed by electrons around an atom's nucleus. The closest shell to the nucleus is called the "1 shell" , followed by the "2 shell" , then the "3 shell" , and so on further and further from the nucleus. The shell letters K,L,M,.....

 surrounding the nucleus
Atomic nucleus
The nucleus is the very dense region consisting of protons and neutrons at the center of an atom. It was discovered in 1911, as a result of Ernest Rutherford's interpretation of the famous 1909 Rutherford experiment performed by Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden, under the direction of Rutherford. The...

, and that for all noble gases except helium the outermost shell always contains eight electrons. In 1916, Gilbert N. Lewis
Gilbert N. Lewis
Gilbert Newton Lewis was an American physical chemist known for the discovery of the covalent bond , his purification of heavy water, his reformulation of chemical thermodynamics in a mathematically rigorous manner accessible to ordinary chemists, his theory of Lewis acids and...

 formulated the octet rule
Octet rule
The octet rule is a chemical rule of thumb that states that atoms of low The octet rule is a chemical rule of thumb that states that atoms of low The octet rule is a chemical rule of thumb that states that atoms of low (The octet rule is a chemical rule of thumb that states that atoms of low (...

, which concluded an octet of electrons in the outer shell was the most stable arrangement for any atom; this arrangement caused them to be unreactive with other elements since they did not require any more electrons to complete their outer shell.

In 1962 Neil Bartlett discovered the first chemical compound of a noble gas, xenon hexafluoroplatinate
Xenon hexafluoroplatinate
Xenon hexafluoroplatinate is the name of the product of the reaction of platinum hexafluoride and xenon, in an experiment that proved the chemical reactivity of the noble gases...

. Compounds of other noble gases were discovered soon after: in 1962 for radon, radon fluoride
Radon fluoride
Radon difluoride is a compound of radon, a noble gas. Radon reacts readily with fluorine to form a solid compound, but this decomposes on attempted vaporization and its exact composition is uncertain. Calculations suggest that it may be ionic. The usefulness of radon compounds is limited because...

, and in 1963 for krypton, krypton difluoride
Krypton difluoride
Krypton difluoride, KrF2, was the first compound of krypton discovered. It is a volatile, colourless solid. The structure of the KrF2 molecule is linear, with Kr−F distances of 188.9 pm...

 . The first stable compound of argon was reported in 2000 when argon fluorohydride
Argon fluorohydride
Argon fluorohydride is the first known compound of the chemical element argon.-Discovery:The discovery of this first argon compound is credited to a group of Finnish scientists, led by Markku Räsänen...

 (HArF) was formed at a temperature of 40 K.

In December 1998, scientists at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research
Joint Institute for Nuclear Research
The Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, JINR , in Dubna, Moscow Oblast , Russia, is an international research centre for nuclear sciences, with 5500 staff members, 1200 researchers including 1000 Ph.D.s from eighteen member states The Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, JINR , in Dubna, Moscow...

 working in Dubna
Dubna
Dubna is a town in Moscow Oblast, Russia. It has a status of naukograd , being home to the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, an international nuclear physics research centre and one of the largest scientific foundations in the country. It is also home to MKB Raduga, a defence aerospace company...

, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 bombarded plutonium (Pu)
Plutonium
Plutonium is a transuranic radioactive chemical element with the chemical symbol Pu and atomic number 94. It is an actinide metal of silvery-gray appearance that tarnishes when exposed to air, forming a dull coating when oxidized. The element normally exhibits six allotropes and four oxidation...

 with calcium (Ca)
Calcium
Calcium is the chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. It has an atomic mass of 40.078 amu. Calcium is a soft gray alkaline earth metal, and is the fifth-most-abundant element by mass in the Earth's crust...

 to produce a single atom of element 114, ununquadium (Uuq)
Ununquadium
Ununquadium is the temporary name of a radioactive chemical element with the temporary symbol Uuq and atomic number 114. There is no proposed name yet, although flerovium has been discussed in the media.About 80 decays of atoms of...

. Preliminary chemistry experiments have indicated this element may be the first superheavy element to show abnormal noble-gas-like properties, even though it is a member of group 14 on the periodic table. In October 2006, scientists from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory , just outside Livermore, California, is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center founded by the University of California in 1952...

 successfully created synthetically ununoctium (Uuo)
Ununoctium
Ununoctium is the temporary IUPAC name for the transactinide element having the atomic number 118 and temporary element symbol Uuo. It is also known as eka-radon or element 118, and on the periodic table of the elements it is a p-block element and the last one of the 7th period. Ununoctium is...

, the seventh element in group 18, by bombarding californium (Cf)
Californium
Californium is a radioactive metallic chemical element with the symbol Cf and atomic number 98. The element was first made in the laboratory in 1950 by bombarding curium with alpha particles at the University of California, Berkeley. It is the ninth member of the actinide series and was the...

 with calcium (Ca).

Chemical properties

The noble gases are colorless, odorless, tasteless, and nonflammable under standard conditions. They were once labeled group 0 in the periodic table because it was believed they had a valence
Valence (chemistry)
In chemistry, valence, also known as valency or valence number, is a measure of the number of bonds formed by an atom of a given element. "Valence" can be defined as the number of valence bonds...

 of zero, meaning their atom
Atom
The atom is a basic unit of matter that consists of a dense central nucleus surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged electrons. The atomic nucleus contains a mix of positively charged protons and electrically neutral neutrons...

s cannot combine with those of other elements to form compounds
Chemical compound
A chemical compound is a pure chemical substance consisting of two or more different chemical elements that can be separated into simpler substances by chemical reactions. Chemical compounds have a unique and defined chemical structure; they consist of a fixed ratio of atoms that are held together...

. However, it was later discovered some do indeed form compounds, causing this label to fall into disuse.

Like other groups, the members of this family show patterns in its electron configuration
Electron configuration
In atomic physics and quantum chemistry, electron configuration is the arrangement of electrons of an atom, a molecule, or other physical structure...

, especially the outermost shells resulting in trends in chemical behavior:
Z
Atomic number
In chemistry and physics, the atomic number is the number of protons found in the nucleus of an atom and therefore identical to the charge number of the nucleus. It is conventionally represented by the symbol Z. The atomic number uniquely identifies a chemical element...

 
Element
Chemical element
A chemical element is a pure chemical substance consisting of one type of atom distinguished by its atomic number, which is the number of protons in its nucleus. Familiar examples of elements include carbon, oxygen, aluminum, iron, copper, gold, mercury, and lead.As of November 2011, 118 elements...

 
No. of electrons/shell
Electron shell
An electron shell may be thought of as an orbit followed by electrons around an atom's nucleus. The closest shell to the nucleus is called the "1 shell" , followed by the "2 shell" , then the "3 shell" , and so on further and further from the nucleus. The shell letters K,L,M,.....

2 helium
Helium
Helium is the chemical element with atomic number 2 and an atomic weight of 4.002602, which is represented by the symbol He. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas that heads the noble gas group in the periodic table...

 
2
10 neon
Neon
Neon is the chemical element that has the symbol Ne and an atomic number of 10. Although a very common element in the universe, it is rare on Earth. A colorless, inert noble gas under standard conditions, neon gives a distinct reddish-orange glow when used in either low-voltage neon glow lamps or...

 
2, 8
18 argon
Argon
Argon is a chemical element represented by the symbol Ar. Argon has atomic number 18 and is the third element in group 18 of the periodic table . Argon is the third most common gas in the Earth's atmosphere, at 0.93%, making it more common than carbon dioxide...

 
2, 8, 8
36 krypton
Krypton
Krypton is a chemical element with the symbol Kr and atomic number 36. It is a member of Group 18 and Period 4 elements. A colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas, krypton occurs in trace amounts in the atmosphere, is isolated by fractionally distilling liquified air, and is often used with other...

 
2, 8, 18, 8
54 xenon
Xenon
Xenon is a chemical element with the symbol Xe and atomic number 54. The element name is pronounced or . A colorless, heavy, odorless noble gas, xenon occurs in the Earth's atmosphere in trace amounts...

 
2, 8, 18, 18, 8
86 radon
Radon
Radon is a chemical element with symbol Rn and atomic number 86. It is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas, occurring naturally as the decay product of uranium or thorium. Its most stable isotope, 222Rn, has a half-life of 3.8 days...

 
2, 8, 18, 32, 18, 8


The noble gases have full valence electron shells. Valence electron
Valence electron
In chemistry, valence electrons are the electrons of an atom that can participate in the formation of chemical bonds with other atoms. Valence electrons are the "own" electrons, present in the free neutral atom, that combine with valence electrons of other atoms to form chemical bonds. In a single...

s are the outermost electron
Electron
The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative elementary electric charge. It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle. An electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton...

s of an atom and are normally the only electrons that participate in chemical bond
Chemical bond
A chemical bond is an attraction between atoms that allows the formation of chemical substances that contain two or more atoms. The bond is caused by the electromagnetic force attraction between opposite charges, either between electrons and nuclei, or as the result of a dipole attraction...

ing. Atoms with full valence electron shells are extremely stable and therefore do not tend to form chemical bonds and have little tendency to gain or lose electrons. However, heavier noble gases such as radon are held less firmly together by electromagnetic force than lighter noble gases such as helium, making it easier to remove outer electrons from heavy noble gases.

Noble gas notation

As a result of a full shell, the noble gases can be used in conjunction with the electron configuration
Electron configuration
In atomic physics and quantum chemistry, electron configuration is the arrangement of electrons of an atom, a molecule, or other physical structure...

 notation to form the noble gas notation. To do this, the nearest noble gas that precedes the element in question is written first, and then the electron configuration is continued from that point forward. For example, the electron notation of mercury
Mercury (element)
Mercury is a chemical element with the symbol Hg and atomic number 80. It is also known as quicksilver or hydrargyrum...

 is 1s22s22p63s23p64s23d104p65s24d105p66s24f145d10, and the noble gas notation is [Xe]6s24f145d10. This notation makes it easier to identify elements, and is shorter than writing out the full notation of atomic orbital
Atomic orbital
An atomic orbital is a mathematical function that describes the wave-like behavior of either one electron or a pair of electrons in an atom. This function can be used to calculate the probability of finding any electron of an atom in any specific region around the atom's nucleus...

s.

Compounds

The noble gases show extremely low chemical reactivity; consequently, only a few hundred noble gas compound
Noble gas compound
Noble gas compounds are chemical compounds that include an element from Group 18 of the periodic table, the noble gases.-History and background:...

s have been formed. Neutral compounds
Chemical compound
A chemical compound is a pure chemical substance consisting of two or more different chemical elements that can be separated into simpler substances by chemical reactions. Chemical compounds have a unique and defined chemical structure; they consist of a fixed ratio of atoms that are held together...

 in which helium and neon are involved in chemical bond
Chemical bond
A chemical bond is an attraction between atoms that allows the formation of chemical substances that contain two or more atoms. The bond is caused by the electromagnetic force attraction between opposite charges, either between electrons and nuclei, or as the result of a dipole attraction...

s have not been formed (although there is some theoretical evidence for a few helium compounds), while xenon, krypton, and argon have shown only minor reactivity. The reactivity follows the order Ne < He < Ar < Kr < Xe < Rn.

In 1933, Linus Pauling
Linus Pauling
Linus Carl Pauling was an American chemist, biochemist, peace activist, author, and educator. He was one of the most influential chemists in history and ranks among the most important scientists of the 20th century...

 predicted that the heavier noble gases could form compounds with fluorine and oxygen. He predicted the existence of krypton hexafluoride and xenon hexafluoride
Xenon hexafluoride
Xenon hexafluoride is a noble gas compound with the formula XeF6 and the highest of the three binary fluorides of xenon, the other two being XeF2 and XeF4. All are exergonic and stable at normal temperatures. XeF6 is the strongest fluorinating agent of the series...

 , speculated might exist as an unstable compound, and suggested xenic acid
Xenic acid
Xenic acid is a noble gas compound formed by the dissolution of xenon trioxide in water. Its chemical structure is H2XeO4. It is a very powerful oxidizing agent, and its decomposition is dangerous as it liberates a large amount of gaseous products—xenon, oxygen, and ozone.Its existence was...

 could form perxenate
Perxenate
In chemistry, perxenates are salts of the yellow xenon-containing anion . This anion has octahedral molecular geometry, as determined by Raman spectroscopy, having O–Xe–O bond angles varying between 87° and 93°...

 salts. These predictions were shown to be generally accurate, except is now thought to be both thermodynamically and kinetically
Kinetic theory
The kinetic theory of gases describes a gas as a large number of small particles , all of which are in constant, random motion. The rapidly moving particles constantly collide with each other and with the walls of the container...

 unstable.

Xenon compounds are the most numerous of the noble gas compounds that have been formed. Most of them have the xenon atom in the oxidation state
Oxidation state
In chemistry, the oxidation state is an indicator of the degree of oxidation of an atom in a chemical compound. The formal oxidation state is the hypothetical charge that an atom would have if all bonds to atoms of different elements were 100% ionic. Oxidation states are typically represented by...

 of +2, +4, +6, or +8 bonded to highly electronegative atoms such as fluorine or oxygen, as in xenon difluoride
Xenon difluoride
Xenon difluoride is a powerful fluorinating agent with the chemical formula , and one of the most stable xenon compounds. Like most covalent inorganic fluorides it is moisture sensitive. It decomposes on contact with light or water vapour. Xenon difluoride is a dense, white crystalline solid. It...

 , xenon tetrafluoride
Xenon tetrafluoride
Xenon tetrafluoride is a chemical compound with chemical formula . It was the first discovered binary compound of a noble gas. It is produced by the chemical reaction of xenon with fluorine, , according to the chemical equation:...

 , xenon hexafluoride
Xenon hexafluoride
Xenon hexafluoride is a noble gas compound with the formula XeF6 and the highest of the three binary fluorides of xenon, the other two being XeF2 and XeF4. All are exergonic and stable at normal temperatures. XeF6 is the strongest fluorinating agent of the series...

 , xenon tetroxide
Xenon tetroxide
Xenon tetroxide is a chemical compound of xenon and oxygen with molecular formula XeO4, remarkable for being a relatively stable compound of a noble gas...

 , and sodium perxenate . Some of these compounds have found use in chemical synthesis
Chemical synthesis
In chemistry, chemical synthesis is purposeful execution of chemical reactions to get a product, or several products. This happens by physical and chemical manipulations usually involving one or more reactions...

 as oxidizing agent
Oxidizing agent
An oxidizing agent can be defined as a substance that removes electrons from another reactant in a redox chemical reaction...

s; , in particular, is commercially available and can be used as a fluorinating agent. As of 2007, about five hundred compounds of xenon bonded to other elements have been identified, including organoxenon compounds (those bonded to carbon), and xenon bonded to nitrogen, chlorine, gold, mercury, and xenon itself. Compounds of xenon bound to boron, hydrogen, bromine, iodine, beryllium, sulphur, titanium, copper, and silver have also been observed but only at low temperatures in noble gas matrices
Matrix Isolation
Matrix isolation is an experimental technique used in chemistry and physics which generally involves a material being trapped within an unreactive matrix. A host matrix is a continuous solid phase in which guest particles are embedded. The guest is said to be isolated within the host matrix...

, or in supersonic noble gas jets.

In theory, radon is more reactive than xenon, and therefore should form chemical bonds more easily than xenon does. However, due to the high radioactivity and short half-life of radon isotopes
Isotopes of radon
There are 39 known isotopes of radon from 193Rn to 231Rn. The most stable isotope is 222Rn with a half-life of 3.823 days. Four isotopes, 218, 219, 220, 222Rn occur in trace quantities in nature as decay products of, respectively, 218At, 223Ra, 224Ra, and 226Ra...

, only a few fluoride
Fluoride
Fluoride is the anion F−, the reduced form of fluorine when as an ion and when bonded to another element. Both organofluorine compounds and inorganic fluorine containing compounds are called fluorides. Fluoride, like other halides, is a monovalent ion . Its compounds often have properties that are...

s and oxide
Oxide
An oxide is a chemical compound that contains at least one oxygen atom in its chemical formula. Metal oxides typically contain an anion of oxygen in the oxidation state of −2....

s of radon have been formed in practice.

Krypton is less reactive than xenon, but several compounds have been reported with krypton in the oxidation state
Oxidation state
In chemistry, the oxidation state is an indicator of the degree of oxidation of an atom in a chemical compound. The formal oxidation state is the hypothetical charge that an atom would have if all bonds to atoms of different elements were 100% ionic. Oxidation states are typically represented by...

 of +2. Krypton difluoride
Krypton difluoride
Krypton difluoride, KrF2, was the first compound of krypton discovered. It is a volatile, colourless solid. The structure of the KrF2 molecule is linear, with Kr−F distances of 188.9 pm...

 is the most notable and easily characterized. Compounds in which krypton forms a single bond to nitrogen and oxygen have also been characterized, but are only stable below -60 C and -90 C respectively).

Krypton atoms chemically bound to other nonmetals (hydrogen, chlorine, carbon) as well as some late transition metal
Transition metal
The term transition metal has two possible meanings:*The IUPAC definition states that a transition metal is "an element whose atom has an incomplete d sub-shell, or which can give rise to cations with an incomplete d sub-shell." Group 12 elements are not transition metals in this definition.*Some...

s (copper, silver, gold) have also been observed, but only either at low temperatures in noble gas matrices, or in supersonic noble gas jets. Similar conditions were used to obtain the first few compounds of argon in 2000, such as argon fluorohydride
Argon fluorohydride
Argon fluorohydride is the first known compound of the chemical element argon.-Discovery:The discovery of this first argon compound is credited to a group of Finnish scientists, led by Markku Räsänen...

 (HArF), and some bound to the late transition metals copper, silver, and gold. As of 2007, no stable neutral molecules involving covalently bound helium or neon are known.

The noble gases—including helium—can form stable molecular ions in the gas phase. The simplest is the helium hydride molecular ion, HeH+, discovered in 1925. Because it is composed of the two most abundant elements in the universe, hydrogen and helium, it is believed to occur naturally in the interstellar medium
Interstellar medium
In astronomy, the interstellar medium is the matter that exists in the space between the star systems in a galaxy. This matter includes gas in ionic, atomic, and molecular form, dust, and cosmic rays. It fills interstellar space and blends smoothly into the surrounding intergalactic space...

, although it has not been detected yet. In addition to these ions, there are many known neutral excimer
Excimer
An excimer is a short-lived dimeric or heterodimeric molecule formed from two species, at least one of which is in an electronic excited state. Excimers are often diatomic and are composed of two atoms or molecules that would not bond if both were in the ground state. The lifetime of an excimer is...

s of the noble gases. These are compounds such as ArF and KrF that are stable only when in an excited electronic state
Excited state
Excitation is an elevation in energy level above an arbitrary baseline energy state. In physics there is a specific technical definition for energy level which is often associated with an atom being excited to an excited state....

; some of them find application in excimer laser
Excimer laser
An excimer laser is a form of ultraviolet laser which is commonly used in the production of microelectronic devices , eye surgery, and micromachining....

s.

In addition to the compounds where a noble gas atom is involved in a covalent bond
Covalent bond
A covalent bond is a form of chemical bonding that is characterized by the sharing of pairs of electrons between atoms. The stable balance of attractive and repulsive forces between atoms when they share electrons is known as covalent bonding....

, noble gases also form non-covalent compounds. The clathrates, first described in 1949, consist of a noble gas atom trapped within cavities of crystal lattices of certain organic and inorganic substances. The essential condition for their formation is that the guest (noble gas) atoms must be of appropriate size to fit in the cavities of the host crystal lattice. For instance, argon, krypton, and xenon form clathrates with hydroquinone
Hydroquinone
Hydroquinone, also benzene-1,4-diol or quinol, is an aromatic organic compound that is a type of phenol, having the chemical formula C6H42. Its chemical structure, shown in the table at right, has two hydroxyl groups bonded to a benzene ring in a para position. It is a white granular solid...

, but helium and neon do not because they are too small or insufficiently polarizable
Polarizability
Polarizability is the measure of the change in a molecule's electron distribution in response to an applied electric field, which can also be induced by electric interactions with solvents or ionic reagents. It is a property of matter...

 to be retained. Neon, argon, krypton, and xenon also form clathrate hydrates, where the noble gas is trapped in ice.

Noble gases can form endohedral fullerene compounds, in which the noble gas atom is trapped inside a fullerene
Fullerene
A fullerene is any molecule composed entirely of carbon, in the form of a hollow sphere, ellipsoid, or tube. Spherical fullerenes are also called buckyballs, and they resemble the balls used in association football. Cylindrical ones are called carbon nanotubes or buckytubes...

 molecule. In 1993, it was discovered that when , a spherical molecule consisting of 60 carbon
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

 atoms, is exposed to noble gases at high pressure, complex
Complex (chemistry)
In chemistry, a coordination complex or metal complex, is an atom or ion , bonded to a surrounding array of molecules or anions, that are in turn known as ligands or complexing agents...

es such as can be formed (the @ notation indicates He is contained inside but not covalently bound to it). As of 2008, endohedral complexes with helium, neon, argon, krypton, and xenon have been obtained. These compounds have found use in the study of the structure and reactivity of fullerenes by means of the nuclear magnetic resonance
Nuclear magnetic resonance
Nuclear magnetic resonance is a physical phenomenon in which magnetic nuclei in a magnetic field absorb and re-emit electromagnetic radiation...

 of the noble gas atom.

Noble gas compounds such as xenon difluoride
Xenon difluoride
Xenon difluoride is a powerful fluorinating agent with the chemical formula , and one of the most stable xenon compounds. Like most covalent inorganic fluorides it is moisture sensitive. It decomposes on contact with light or water vapour. Xenon difluoride is a dense, white crystalline solid. It...

  are considered to be hypervalent because they violate the octet rule
Octet rule
The octet rule is a chemical rule of thumb that states that atoms of low The octet rule is a chemical rule of thumb that states that atoms of low The octet rule is a chemical rule of thumb that states that atoms of low (The octet rule is a chemical rule of thumb that states that atoms of low (...

. Bonding in such compounds can be explained using a 3-center-4-electron bond model. This model, first proposed in 1951, considers bonding of three collinear atoms. For example, bonding in is described by a set of three molecular orbital
Molecular orbital
In chemistry, a molecular orbital is a mathematical function describing the wave-like behavior of an electron in a molecule. This function can be used to calculate chemical and physical properties such as the probability of finding an electron in any specific region. The term "orbital" was first...

s (MOs) derived from p-orbitals on each atom. Bonding results from the combination of a filled p-orbital from Xe with one half-filled p-orbital from each F
Fluorine
Fluorine is the chemical element with atomic number 9, represented by the symbol F. It is the lightest element of the halogen column of the periodic table and has a single stable isotope, fluorine-19. At standard pressure and temperature, fluorine is a pale yellow gas composed of diatomic...

 atom, resulting in a filled bonding orbital, a filled non-bonding orbital, and an empty antibonding
Antibonding
Antibonding is a type of chemical bonding. An antibonding orbital is a form of molecular orbital that is located outside the region of two distinct nuclei...

 orbital. The highest occupied molecular orbital is localized on the two terminal atoms. This represents a localization of charge which is facilitated by the high electronegativity of fluorine.

The chemistry of heavier noble gases, krypton and xenon, are well established. The chemistry of the lighter ones, argon and helium, is still at an early stage, while a neon compound is still yet to be identified.

Occurrence and production

The abundances of the noble gases in the universe decrease as their atomic number
Atomic number
In chemistry and physics, the atomic number is the number of protons found in the nucleus of an atom and therefore identical to the charge number of the nucleus. It is conventionally represented by the symbol Z. The atomic number uniquely identifies a chemical element...

s increase. Helium is the most common element in the universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

 after hydrogen, with a mass fraction of about 24%. Most of the helium in the universe was formed during Big Bang nucleosynthesis
Big Bang nucleosynthesis
In physical cosmology, Big Bang nucleosynthesis refers to the production of nuclei other than those of H-1 during the early phases of the universe...

, but the amount of helium is steadily increasing due to the fusion of hydrogen in stellar nucleosynthesis
Stellar nucleosynthesis
Stellar nucleosynthesis is the collective term for the nuclear reactions taking place in stars to build the nuclei of the elements heavier than hydrogen. Some small quantity of these reactions also occur on the stellar surface under various circumstances...

. Abundances on Earth follow different trends; for example, helium is only the third most abundant noble gas in the atmosphere. The reason is that there is no primordial helium in the atmosphere; due to the small mass of the atom, helium cannot be retained by the Earth's gravitational field
Gravitational field
The gravitational field is a model used in physics to explain the existence of gravity. In its original concept, gravity was a force between point masses...

. Helium on Earth comes from the alpha decay
Alpha decay
Alpha decay is a type of radioactive decay in which an atomic nucleus emits an alpha particle and thereby transforms into an atom with a mass number 4 less and atomic number 2 less...

 of heavy elements such as uranium
Uranium
Uranium is a silvery-white metallic chemical element in the actinide series of the periodic table, with atomic number 92. It is assigned the chemical symbol U. A uranium atom has 92 protons and 92 electrons, of which 6 are valence electrons...

 and thorium
Thorium
Thorium is a natural radioactive chemical element with the symbol Th and atomic number 90. It was discovered in 1828 and named after Thor, the Norse god of thunder....

 found in the Earth's crust
Crust (geology)
In geology, the crust is the outermost solid shell of a rocky planet or natural satellite, which is chemically distinct from the underlying mantle...

, and tends to accumulate in natural gas deposit
Natural gas field
Oil and natural gas are produced by the same geological process according fossil fuel suggestion: anaerobic decay of organic matter deep under the Earth's surface. As a consequence, oil and natural gas are often found together...

s. The abundance of argon, on the other hand, is increased as a result of the beta decay
Beta decay
In nuclear physics, beta decay is a type of radioactive decay in which a beta particle is emitted from an atom. There are two types of beta decay: beta minus and beta plus. In the case of beta decay that produces an electron emission, it is referred to as beta minus , while in the case of a...

 of potassium-40
Potassium-40
Potassium-40 is a radioactive isotope of potassium which has a very long half-life of 1.248 years, or about 39.38 seconds.Potassium-40 is a rare example of an isotope which undergoes all three types of beta decay. About 89.28% of the time, it decays to calcium-40 with emission of a beta particle...

, also found in the Earth's crust, to form argon-40, which is the most abundant isotope of argon on Earth despite being relatively rare in the Solar System
Solar System
The Solar System consists of the Sun and the astronomical objects gravitationally bound in orbit around it, all of which formed from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud approximately 4.6 billion years ago. The vast majority of the system's mass is in the Sun...

. This process is the base for the potassium-argon dating
Potassium-argon dating
Potassium–argon dating or K–Ar dating is a radiometric dating method used in geochronology and archeology. It is based on measurement of the product of the radioactive decay of an isotope of potassium into argon . Potassium is a common element found in many materials, such as micas, clay minerals,...

 method. Xenon has an unexpectedly low abundance in the atmosphere, in what has been called the missing xenon problem; one theory is that the missing xenon may be trapped in minerals inside the Earth's crust. Radon is formed in the lithosphere
Lithosphere
The lithosphere is the rigid outermost shell of a rocky planet. On Earth, it comprises the crust and the portion of the upper mantle that behaves elastically on time scales of thousands of years or greater.- Earth's lithosphere :...

 as from the alpha decay
Alpha decay
Alpha decay is a type of radioactive decay in which an atomic nucleus emits an alpha particle and thereby transforms into an atom with a mass number 4 less and atomic number 2 less...

 of radium. It can seep into buildings through cracks in their foundation and accumulate in areas that are not well ventilated. Due to its high radioactivity, radon presents a significant health hazard; it is implicated in an estimated 21,000 lung cancer
Lung cancer
Lung cancer is a disease characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung. If left untreated, this growth can spread beyond the lung in a process called metastasis into nearby tissue and, eventually, into other parts of the body. Most cancers that start in lung, known as primary...

 deaths per year in the United States alone.
Abundance Helium Neon Argon Krypton Xenon Radon
Solar System (for each atom of silicon) 2343 2.148 0.1025 5.515 × 10−5 5.391 × 10−6
Earth's atmosphere (volume fraction in ppm) 5.20 18.20 9340.00 1.10 0.09 (0.06–18) × 10−19
Igneous rock (mass fraction in ppm) 3 × 10−3 7 × 10−5 4 × 10−2 1.7 × 10−10


Neon, argon, krypton, and xenon are obtained from air using the methods of liquefaction of gases
Liquefaction of gases
Liquefaction of gases includes a number of phases used to convert a gas into a liquid state. The processes are used for scientific, industrial and commercial purposes. Many gases can be put into a liquid state at normal atmospheric pressure by simple cooling; a few, such as carbon dioxide, require...

, to convert elements to a liquid state, and fractional distillation
Fractional distillation
Fractional distillation is the separation of a mixture into its component parts, or fractions, such as in separating chemical compounds by their boiling point by heating them to a temperature at which several fractions of the compound will evaporate. It is a special type of distillation...

, to separate mixtures into component parts. Helium is typically produced by separating it from natural gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

, and radon is isolated from the radioactive decay of radium compounds. The prices of the noble gases are influenced by their natural abundance, with argon being the cheapest and xenon the most expensive. As an example, the table to the right lists the 2004 prices in the United States for laboratory quantities of each gas.

Applications

Noble gases have very low boiling and melting points, which makes them useful as cryogenic refrigerant
Refrigerant
A refrigerant is a substance used in a heat cycle usually including, for enhanced efficiency, a reversible phase change from a liquid to a gas. Traditionally, fluorocarbons, especially chlorofluorocarbons, were used as refrigerants, but they are being phased out because of their ozone depletion...

s. In particular, liquid helium
Liquid helium
Helium exists in liquid form only at extremely low temperatures. The boiling point and critical point depend on the isotope of the helium; see the table below for values. The density of liquid helium-4 at its boiling point and 1 atmosphere is approximately 0.125 g/mL Helium-4 was first liquefied...

, which boils at 4.2 K, is used for superconducting magnet
Superconducting magnet
A superconducting magnet is an electromagnet made from coils of superconducting wire. They must be cooled to cryogenic temperatures during operation. In its superconducting state the wire can conduct much larger electric currents than ordinary wire, creating intense magnetic fields...

s, such as those needed in nuclear magnetic resonance imaging and nuclear magnetic resonance
Nuclear magnetic resonance
Nuclear magnetic resonance is a physical phenomenon in which magnetic nuclei in a magnetic field absorb and re-emit electromagnetic radiation...

. Liquid neon, although it does not reach temperatures as low as liquid helium, also finds use in cryogenics because it has over 40 times more refrigerating capacity than liquid helium and over three times more than liquid hydrogen.
Helium is used as a component of breathing gases to replace nitrogen, due its low solubility
Solubility
Solubility is the property of a solid, liquid, or gaseous chemical substance called solute to dissolve in a solid, liquid, or gaseous solvent to form a homogeneous solution of the solute in the solvent. The solubility of a substance fundamentally depends on the used solvent as well as on...

 in fluids, especially in lipids. Gases are absorbed by the blood
Blood
Blood is a specialized bodily fluid in animals that delivers necessary substances such as nutrients and oxygen to the cells and transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells....

 and body tissues when under pressure like in scuba diving
Scuba diving
Scuba diving is a form of underwater diving in which a diver uses a scuba set to breathe underwater....

, which causes an anesthetic effect known as nitrogen narcosis
Nitrogen narcosis
Narcosis while diving , is a reversible alteration in consciousness that occurs while scuba diving at depth. The Greek word ναρκωσις is derived from narke, "temporary decline or loss of senses and movement, numbness", a term used by Homer and Hippocrates...

. Due to its reduced solubility, little helium is taken into cell membranes, and when helium is used to replace part of the breathing mixtures, such as in trimix or heliox
Heliox
Heliox is a breathing gas composed of a mixture of helium and oxygen .Heliox has been used medically since the 1930s, and although the medical community adopted it initially to alleviate symptoms of upper airway obstruction, its range of medical uses has since expanded greatly, mostly because of...

, a decrease in the narcotic effect of the gas at depth is obtained. Helium's reduced solubility offers further advantages for the condition known as decompression sickness, or the bends. The reduced amount of dissolved gas in the body means that fewer gas bubbles form during the decrease in pressure of the ascent. Another noble gas, argon, is considered the best option for use as a drysuit inflation gas for scuba diving. Helium is also used as filling gas in nuclear fuel rods for nuclear reactors.
Since the Hindenburg disaster
Hindenburg disaster
The Hindenburg disaster took place on Thursday, May 6, 1937, as the German passenger airship LZ 129 Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed during its attempt to dock with its mooring mast at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station, which is located adjacent to the borough of Lakehurst, New Jersey...

 in 1937, helium has replaced hydrogen as a lifting gas
Lifting gas
Because of the Archimedes' principle, a lifting gas is required for aerostats to create buoyancy. Its density is lower than that of air . Only certain lighter than air gases are suitable as lifting gases.- Hot Air :...

 in blimp
Blimp
A blimp, or non-rigid airship, is a floating airship without an internal supporting framework or keel. A non-rigid airship differs from a semi-rigid airship and a rigid airship in that it does not have any rigid structure, neither a complete framework nor a partial keel, to help the airbag...

s and balloon
Balloon
A balloon is an inflatable flexible bag filled with a gas, such as helium, hydrogen, nitrous oxide, oxygen, or air. Modern balloons can be made from materials such as rubber, latex, polychloroprene, or a nylon fabric, while some early balloons were made of dried animal bladders, such as the pig...

s due to its lightness and incombustibility, despite an 8.6% decrease in buoyancy.
In many applications, the noble gases are used to provide an inert atmosphere. Argon is used in the synthesis of air-sensitive compounds
Air sensitive
Air sensitivity is a term used, in particular in chemistry, to denote the reactivity of chemical compounds with some constituent of air. Most often, reactions occur with atmospheric oxygen or water vapor , although reactions with the other constituents of air such as carbon monoxide , carbon...

 that are sensitive to nitrogen. Solid argon is also used for the study of very unstable compounds, such as reactive intermediate
Reactive intermediate
In chemistry a reactive intermediate is a short-lived, high energy, highly reactive molecule. When generated in a chemical reaction it will quickly convert into a more stable molecule. Only in exceptional cases can these compounds be isolated and stored, e.g. low temperatures, matrix isolation...

s, by trapping them in an inert matrix
Matrix Isolation
Matrix isolation is an experimental technique used in chemistry and physics which generally involves a material being trapped within an unreactive matrix. A host matrix is a continuous solid phase in which guest particles are embedded. The guest is said to be isolated within the host matrix...

 at very low temperatures. Helium is used as the carrier medium in gas chromatography, as a filler gas for thermometers, and in devices for measuring radiation, such as the Geiger counter
Geiger counter
A Geiger counter, also called a Geiger–Müller counter, is a type of particle detector that measures ionizing radiation. They detect the emission of nuclear radiation: alpha particles, beta particles or gamma rays. A Geiger counter detects radiation by ionization produced in a low-pressure gas in a...

 and the bubble chamber
Bubble chamber
A bubble chamber is a vessel filled with a superheated transparent liquid used to detect electrically charged particles moving through it. It was invented in 1952 by Donald A. Glaser, for which he was awarded the 1960 Nobel Prize in Physics...

. Helium and argon are both commonly used to shield welding arcs and the surrounding base metal
Base metal
In chemistry, the term base metal is used informally to refer to a metal that oxidizes or corrodes relatively easily, and reacts variably with diluted hydrochloric acid to form hydrogen. Examples include iron, nickel, lead and zinc...

 from the atmosphere during welding and cutting, as well as in other metallurgical processes and in the production of silicon for the semiconductor industry.
Noble gases are commonly used in lighting
Lighting
Lighting or illumination is the deliberate application of light to achieve some practical or aesthetic effect. Lighting includes the use of both artificial light sources such as lamps and light fixtures, as well as natural illumination by capturing daylight...

 because of their lack of chemical reactivity. Argon, mixed with nitrogen, is used as a filler gas for incandescent light bulb
Incandescent light bulb
The incandescent light bulb, incandescent lamp or incandescent light globe makes light by heating a metal filament wire to a high temperature until it glows. The hot filament is protected from air by a glass bulb that is filled with inert gas or evacuated. In a halogen lamp, a chemical process...

s. Krypton is used in high-performance light bulbs, which have higher color temperature
Color temperature
Color temperature is a characteristic of visible light that has important applications in lighting, photography, videography, publishing, manufacturing, astrophysics, and other fields. The color temperature of a light source is the temperature of an ideal black-body radiator that radiates light of...

s and greater efficiency, because it reduces the rate of evaporation of the filament more than argon; halogen lamps, in particular, use krypton mixed with small amounts of compounds of iodine
Iodine
Iodine is a chemical element with the symbol I and atomic number 53. The name is pronounced , , or . The name is from the , meaning violet or purple, due to the color of elemental iodine vapor....

 or bromine
Bromine
Bromine ") is a chemical element with the symbol Br, an atomic number of 35, and an atomic mass of 79.904. It is in the halogen element group. The element was isolated independently by two chemists, Carl Jacob Löwig and Antoine Jerome Balard, in 1825–1826...

. The noble gases glow in distinctive colors when used inside gas-discharge lamp
Gas-discharge lamp
Gas-discharge lamps are a family of artificial light sources that generate light by sending an electrical discharge through an ionized gas, i.e. a plasma. The character of the gas discharge critically depends on the frequency or modulation of the current: see the entry on a frequency classification...

s, such as "neon lights
Neon lighting
Neon lighting is created by brightly glowing, electrified glass tubes or bulbs that contain rarefied neon or other gases. Georges Claude, a French engineer and inventor, presented neon tube lighting in essentially its modern form at the Paris Motor Show from December 3–18, 1910...

". These lights are called after neon but often contain other gases and phosphor
Phosphor
A phosphor, most generally, is a substance that exhibits the phenomenon of luminescence. Somewhat confusingly, this includes both phosphorescent materials, which show a slow decay in brightness , and fluorescent materials, where the emission decay takes place over tens of nanoseconds...

s, which add various hues to the orange-red color of neon. Xenon is commonly used in xenon arc lamp
Xenon arc lamp
A xenon arc lamp is a specialized type of gas discharge lamp, an electric light that produces light by passing electricity through ionized xenon gas at high pressure to produce a bright white light that closely mimics natural sunlight...

s which, due to their nearly continuous spectrum
Continuous spectrum
The spectrum of a linear operator is commonly divided into three parts: point spectrum, continuous spectrum, and residual spectrum.If H is a topological vector space and A:H \to H is a linear map, the spectrum of A is the set of complex numbers \lambda such that A - \lambda I : H \to H is not...

 that resembles daylight, find application in film projectors and as automobile headlamps.
The noble gases are used in excimer laser
Excimer laser
An excimer laser is a form of ultraviolet laser which is commonly used in the production of microelectronic devices , eye surgery, and micromachining....

s, which are based on short-lived electronically excited molecules known as excimer
Excimer
An excimer is a short-lived dimeric or heterodimeric molecule formed from two species, at least one of which is in an electronic excited state. Excimers are often diatomic and are composed of two atoms or molecules that would not bond if both were in the ground state. The lifetime of an excimer is...

s. The excimers used for lasers may be noble gas dimers such as Ar2, Kr2 or Xe2, or more commonly, the noble gas is combined with a halogen in excimers such as ArF, KrF, XeF, or XeCl. These lasers produce ultraviolet
Ultraviolet
Ultraviolet light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays, in the range 10 nm to 400 nm, and energies from 3 eV to 124 eV...

 light which, due to its short wavelength
Wavelength
In physics, the wavelength of a sinusoidal wave is the spatial period of the wave—the distance over which the wave's shape repeats.It is usually determined by considering the distance between consecutive corresponding points of the same phase, such as crests, troughs, or zero crossings, and is a...

 (193 nm for ArF and 248 nm for KrF), allows for high-precision imaging. Excimer lasers have many industrial, medical, and scientific applications. They are used for microlithography and microfabrication
Microfabrication
Microfabrication is the term that describes processes of fabrication of miniature structures, of micrometre sizes and smaller. Historically the earliest microfabrication processes were used for integrated circuit fabrication, also known as "semiconductor manufacturing" or "semiconductor device...

, which are essential for integrated circuit
Integrated circuit
An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit is an electronic circuit manufactured by the patterned diffusion of trace elements into the surface of a thin substrate of semiconductor material...

 manufacture, and for laser surgery
Laser surgery
Laser surgery is surgery using a laser to cut tissue instead of a scalpel. Examples include the use of a laser scalpel in otherwise conventional surgery, and soft tissue laser surgery, in which the laser beam vaporizes soft tissue with high water content...

, including laser angioplasty
Angioplasty
Angioplasty is the technique of mechanically widening a narrowed or obstructed blood vessel, the latter typically being a result of atherosclerosis. An empty and collapsed balloon on a guide wire, known as a balloon catheter, is passed into the narrowed locations and then inflated to a fixed size...

 and eye surgery
Eye surgery
Eye surgery, also known as orogolomistician surgery or ocular surgery, is surgery performed on the eye or its adnexa, typically by an ophthalmologist.-Preparation and precautions:...

.
Some noble gases have direct application in medicine. Helium is sometimes used to improve the ease of breathing of asthma
Asthma
Asthma is the common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and bronchospasm. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath...

 sufferers. Xenon is used as an anesthetic because of its high solubility in lipids, which makes it more potent than the usual nitrous oxide
Nitrous oxide
Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas or sweet air, is a chemical compound with the formula . It is an oxide of nitrogen. At room temperature, it is a colorless non-flammable gas, with a slightly sweet odor and taste. It is used in surgery and dentistry for its anesthetic and analgesic...

, and because it is readily eliminated from the body, resulting in faster recovery. Xenon finds application in medical imaging of the lungs through hyperpolarized MRI. Radon, which is highly radioactive and is only available in minute amounts, is used in radiotherapy.

Discharge color

Colors and spectra (bottom row) of electric discharge in pure noble gases
Helium
Helium
Helium is the chemical element with atomic number 2 and an atomic weight of 4.002602, which is represented by the symbol He. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas that heads the noble gas group in the periodic table...

Neon
Neon
Neon is the chemical element that has the symbol Ne and an atomic number of 10. Although a very common element in the universe, it is rare on Earth. A colorless, inert noble gas under standard conditions, neon gives a distinct reddish-orange glow when used in either low-voltage neon glow lamps or...

Argon
Argon
Argon is a chemical element represented by the symbol Ar. Argon has atomic number 18 and is the third element in group 18 of the periodic table . Argon is the third most common gas in the Earth's atmosphere, at 0.93%, making it more common than carbon dioxide...

 
(with some Hg
Mercury (element)
Mercury is a chemical element with the symbol Hg and atomic number 80. It is also known as quicksilver or hydrargyrum...

 in the "Ar" image)
Krypton
Krypton
Krypton is a chemical element with the symbol Kr and atomic number 36. It is a member of Group 18 and Period 4 elements. A colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas, krypton occurs in trace amounts in the atmosphere, is isolated by fractionally distilling liquified air, and is often used with other...

Xenon
Xenon
Xenon is a chemical element with the symbol Xe and atomic number 54. The element name is pronounced or . A colorless, heavy, odorless noble gas, xenon occurs in the Earth's atmosphere in trace amounts...




The color of gas discharge emission depends on several factors, including the following:
  • discharge parameters (local value of current density
    Current density
    Current density is a measure of the density of flow of a conserved charge. Usually the charge is the electric charge, in which case the associated current density is the electric current per unit area of cross section, but the term current density can also be applied to other conserved...

     and electric field
    Electric field
    In physics, an electric field surrounds electrically charged particles and time-varying magnetic fields. The electric field depicts the force exerted on other electrically charged objects by the electrically charged particle the field is surrounding...

    , temperature, etc. – note the color variation along the discharge in the top row);
  • gas purity (even small fraction of certain gases can affect color);
  • material of the discharge tube envelope – note suppression of the UV and blue components in the bottom-row tubes made of thick household glass.

See also

  • Noble gas (data page)
    Noble gas (data page)
    This page provides supplementary data about the noble gases, which had to be excluded from the main article for reasons of space and focus.-Solid:-Liquid:-Gas:-Phase changes and critical properties:-Atomic properties:-Abundance:-Economic data:...

    , for extended tables of physical properties.
  • Noble metal
    Noble metal
    Noble metals are metals that are resistant to corrosion and oxidation in moist air, unlike most base metals. They tend to be precious, often due to their rarity in the Earth's crust...

    , for metals that are resistant to corrosion or oxidation.
  • Inert gas
    Inert gas
    An inert gas is a non-reactive gas used during chemical synthesis, chemical analysis, or preservation of reactive materials. Inert gases are selected for specific settings for which they are functionally inert since the cost of the gas and the cost of purifying the gas are usually a consideration...

    , for any gas that is not reactive under normal circumstances.
  • Industrial gas
    Industrial gas
    Industrial gas is a group of gases that are commercially manufactured and sold for uses in other applications. These gases are mainly used in an industrial processes, such as steelmaking, oil refining, medical applications, fertilizer, semiconductors, etc.,...

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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