What Are Noble Gases?

By Antonia Čirjak on March 5 2020 in Environment

Noble gases are seven chemical elements that are found in group 18 on the periodic table of elements.
Noble gases are seven chemical elements that are found in group 18 on the periodic table of elements.
  • Noble gases were discovered, but not properly named or recognized, in 1785 by Henry Cavendish.
  • Noble gases can react with other elements, despite their resistance to ionization, if there is enough energy present in the chemical process.
  • Helium is added to the bottles that deep-divers use to breathe underwater, to prevent decompression sickness.

Noble gases are seven chemical elements that are found in group 18 on the periodic table of elements. Helium, argon, neon, krypton, xenon, radon, and oganesson are all non-flammable types of gas that rarely react with other chemical elements or compounds. 

Lord Rayleigh, What Kind Of Sorcery Is This?! 

Henry Cavendish discovered noble gases in 1785. This English chemist and physicist discovered how our air contains a minuscule part (less than 1%) of material that has less reactive potential than nitrogen. At the time, Cavendish did not know precisely what he had stumbled upon. It was only around 100 years later, when another famous English physicist, Lord Rayleigh, isolated a gas from the air.

Lord Rayleigh, thought he extracted pure nitrogen, but he was wrong - what he extracted was much denser than nitrogen. Finally, in 1894, William Ramsey, a chemist from Scotland, worked with Lord Rayleigh in another isolation attempt. They proved a new element and called it - argon (Ar). 

For decades after their discovery, noble gases have been categorized into group 0 of the periodic table, because scientists did not have any evidence that these gases could not combine into other compounds with other elements. Later, this theory was brought down, when chemists found in what conditions the noble gases do react. 

Nobles Do Not React? Well, Almost!

One thing that is specific to noble gases is the fact their electron shell is entirely filled, which practically disables them from reacting with other elements. However, scientists noticed how they could form compounds if there is enough energy supplying the chemical process. In this case, the outer shell of the noble gas can be ionized.

Ionization makes it possible for noble gases to react, as it is a process where atoms or molecules change their electric charge by either gaining or losing electrons. Noble gases are mostly found as monatomic structures, which makes the whole process of reacting with other elements even more difficult. 

Different Uses Of Noble Gases

What makes noble gases very unique is their low melting and boiling points, which makes them an ideal when scientists study any kind of matter at very low temperatures. Helium (He) has a very specific purpose, and it prevents the so-called decompression sickness in people that dive deep with breathing bottles. Helium is added to the mixture of the bottles used for deep-sea diving, because it does not dissolve in human blood, and it does not form bubbles that cause decompression sickness. 

Xenon (Xe), for example, is used as an anesthetic, again because of the unique features all noble gases possess - it is non-flammable, and it can quickly leave our system. Radon (Rn) is, however, highly radioactive, which makes it the right choice when conducting different forms of radiation therapy. Oganesson (Og) is radioactive as well. Still, its properties are yet to be fully discovered, as it is tough to isolate and observe. Krypton (Kr), is not Superman’s home, but a forceful oxidizing agent, and is often used as a reagent in the process of chemical synthesis. 

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