2Noble Gases Discovery and electron structure Physical properties Uses ContentsNoble GasesDiscovery and electron structurePhysical propertiesUsesSummary activities
3Group 0 – the noble gasesNoble gases are in group 0 of the periodic table, on the right.FrRaAcRfDbSgBhHsMtDsRg?CsBaLaHfTaWReOsIrPtAuHgTlPbBiPoAtRbSrYZrNbMoTcRuRhPdAgCdInSnSbTeIKCaScTiVCrMnFeCoNiCuZnGaGeAsSeBrNaMgAlSiPSClLiBeBCNOFHRnXeKrArNeHeRnXeKrArNeHe
4Discovery of argonThe noble gases were discovered and isolated in the 1890s by William Ramsey, Lord Rayleigh, and Morris Travers.Noble gases had actually been first discovered, but not recognized, by Henry Cavendish in He had passed a series of electric sparks through a mixture of air and oxygen, and collected the gases that were produced.Each time he did the experiment, around 1% of the gas mixture did not react.Ramsay and his colleagues did further experiments and finally isolated a new element, which they called argon, from the Greek ‘argos’ meaning lazy or inactive.
5Discovery of the other noble gases Once Ramsay had discovered argon, he realised that there was no place in the periodic table for it to fit. He predicted that argon belonged to a whole new group of elements.In 1885 Ramsay identified helium, and in 1888 he identified neon, krypton and xenon after studying liquid air.Radon was discovered in 1900.
6The noble gasesWhy are noble gases so unreactive?
7Electron structure and reactivity All noble gases have full outer electron shells and do not need to gain, lose or share electrons.This means that:helium2They are very stable and the most unreactive (or inert) of all the elements.neon2,8They do not normally form bonds with other elements.They are monatomic, which means they exist as individual atoms. Most other gases arediatomic.argon2,8,8
8Group 8 becomes group 0Why is group 0 not called group 8, even though it comes after group 7?It used to be called group 8, and still is in some cases.8In the rest of the periodic table, the number of the group is the same as the number of outer shell electrons in the elements of that group.HeNeArHowever, this is not true for the noble gases. Helium only has 2 electrons in its outer shell, while the others all have 8. The group’s number was changed to 0 because of this.KrXeRn
9Noble Gases Discovery and electron structure Physical properties Uses ContentsNoble GasesDiscovery and electron structurePhysical propertiesUsesSummary activities
10General properties of noble gases All noble gases are colourless, odourless and unreactive. This makes them difficult to isolate and identify.Because noble gases are so unreactive, there are few patterns, or trends, among the group.
14Noble Gases Discovery and electron structure Physical properties Uses ContentsNoble GasesDiscovery and electron structurePhysical propertiesUsesSummary activities
15Uses of noble gasesAlthough noble gases are unreactive, they are still very useful elements.Many uses of noble gases depend on their ability to prevent other, undesirable, reactions taking place.
16Uses of helium Helium is used as: The gas for inflating balloons and airships, because it is less dense than air and inflammable.A component of breathing gas (with oxygen) for deep-sea divers, because it is unreactive, insoluble and prevents divers getting ‘the bends’.A protective gas for growing silicon crystals in silicon chip manufacture, because it is unreactive.In the deep-sea, the pressures is very high, which means that divers have to breathe in high-pressure air. At high pressure, however, nitrogen dissolves in the blood. When the diver rises to the surface and the pressure decreases, the nitrogen comes out of the blood and forms bubbles. This is called ‘the bends’ and can be extremely painful and even fatal.To avoid ‘the bends’, modern divers breathe a mix of oxygen and helium. Helium is very insoluble and hardly dissolves in the blood.A super-coolant for high-performance magnets, e.g. in body scanners, because it has a verylow boiling point (-269 °C).
17Uses of neon Neon is used: In ‘neon’ advertising signs, because it glows red when an electric current is passed through it.In TV tubes.In certain types of lasers.As a cryogenic refrigerant (when liquid).
18Uses of argon Argon is used: In normal light bulbs, because it is unreactive and prevents the tungsten filament from burning.In energy-efficient fluorescent light bulbs.AcknowledgementEnergy-Star-compliant fluorescent light bulbs containing argon.Credit: D&R Int, LTD/NRELAs a ‘gas blanket’ for arc welding, because it is unreactive and prevents the hot welding metal from oxidizing.
19Uses of other noble gases Krypton is used:In lasers for eye surgery, to stop bleeding on the retina.In lighthouses and other types of lamps.Xenon is used:In various types of electron tubes, lamps and lasers.Radon is used:To treat cancer by radiotherapy, because it is radioactive.However, because radon is radioactive, it is also an environmental hazard.
21Noble Gases Discovery and electron structure Physical properties Uses ContentsNoble GasesDiscovery and electron structurePhysical propertiesUsesSummary activities
22Glossarydensity – A measure of mass in a given volume. Often expressed in g/dm3.inert – Describes a substance that is unreactive under normal conditions.monoatomic – An element that exists as a single atom.noble gas – An element belonging to group 0 of the periodic table.trend – A gradual change in a property or characteristic of elements in the same group of the periodic table.