Why are some gases called "noble"?


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Even if you are very far from chemistry, you could most likely hear the term "noble gases" at least once in your life. These include the well-known neon, krypton, argon, xenon, helium and radon. Why were gases called noble? And what exactly is your nobility? Let's try to find out together.

In nature there are only 6 noble gases: neon, krypton, argon, xenon, helium and radon

What are inert gases?

Noble gases, which are known in chemistry because of their unique property of not mixing with other substances, are often referred to as inert. As the name implies, the "nobility" of inert gases does not allow it to interact with simpler substances and even with each other. Such selectivity of noble gases is caused by their atomic structure, which manifests itself in a closed outer electron shell that does not allow radon, helium, xenon, argon, krypton, and neon to exchange their electrons with atoms of other gases.

Argon is considered the most abundant inert gas in nature, occupying a respectable third place after nitrogen and oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere. Argon has no taste, smell or color, but it is this gas that is considered one of the most common in the universe. Thus, the presence of this gas is observed even in some planetary nebulae and in the composition of some stars.

When heated in a gas discharge tube, argon turns pink

Xenon is considered to be the rarest natural gas in nature, which, despite its rarity, is contained in the earth's atmosphere along with argon. Xenon has narcotic properties and is widely used in medicine as an anesthetic. In addition, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency, inhaling this noble gas has a doping effect that affects the physical condition of the athletes who use it. Filling the lungs with xenon leads to a transient decrease in the tone of tone, which is the opposite effect of helium.

Xenon lights purple when heated

The four other noble gases – radon, helium, neon and krypton – also have their own unique properties. They all have neither a particular taste nor a specific smell or color, but are present in small quantities in the earth's atmosphere and important for our breathing. Therefore, helium is considered to be one of the most common elements in space, and its presence in the Sun's atmosphere as part of other stars of the Milky Way and some meteorites is confirmed by scientific data.

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Neon, which glows when heated with a reddish tint, is extracted from air when it is cooled deeply. Due to the relatively low concentration of this inert gas in the atmosphere of the planet, neon usually occurs as a by-product of argon production.

Radon is a radioactive inert gas that can damage human health. Gaseous radon can glow with blue or blue light, gradually irradiate a person and even lead to cancer. Nevertheless, in medicine so-called radon baths are often used, which can have a positive effect in the treatment of diseases of the central nervous system.

Radon lake in the village of Lopukhinka, Leningrad region

And finally, krypton is the last noble gas found in nature. This is one of the rarest noble gases in the universe. Unlike other inert gases, under certain conditions this gas can give off a pungent odor similar to chloroform. The effects of krypton on humans and animals have so far been little studied due to the incredible rarity of this gas.

See also: Greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by satellites to search for their sources.

Where are the noble gases used?

The most inert gases used by humans are argon, helium and neon, which are widely used in physics and medicine. Helium is used in metal welding and as a coolant in laboratory experiments. Neon and argon are commonly used in the manufacture of incandescent lamps and in metallurgy in the manufacture of aluminum alloys.

Due to its unique properties, noble gases have found their application in various fields of science

The remaining noble gases are most commonly used in medicine. As mentioned above, radon finds its application in medicine, and xenon and krypton are used as bulbs for illumination lamps.