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The Noble Gases



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Podcast Transcript

Positioned on the far proper facet of the periodic desk are the Noble Gases. These components, six of which might be present in nature, are not like another components. 

They don’t play nicely with the opposite components and are fairly content material to be by themselves. 

Nonetheless, they’ve discovered a novel place in technical merchandise, industrial functions, and even house flight.

Be taught extra about Noble Gases, aka the inert gases, on this episode of The whole lot In all places Day by day.


Prior to now, I’ve executed episodes on particular person components. I may in all probability do an episode on helium, however when you get past that it might be arduous to do a full episode on the person noble gases, so I figured I’d simply lump all of them collectively. 

Earlier than I get into speaking in regards to the particular person components I ought to in all probability briefly clarify what makes the inert gases…..inert. 

Every column on the interval desk is known as a bunch, and what every group has in widespread is a valence quantity. A valence quantity describes the variety of electrons which can be within the outermost electron shell of a component. 

For instance, the alkali metals similar to sodium, potassium, and lithium all have one electron of their valence shell. The halide group consists of fluorine, chlorine, and iodine. 

Each atom needs to have an entire outer valence shell. Alkali metals need to hand over an electron and halide components need to take an electron to fill their shell.

Molecules are created by components sharing electrons, and the way they mix will rely upon their valence electrons.

Within the case of noble gases, they’ve a full set of electrons of their valence shell. They haven’t any want to offer or take electrons. They’re good simply as they’re. 

This full valence shell is why inert gases are inert. It is extremely troublesome for them to bind with something and there are virtually by no means molecules or compounds present in nature with these components. 

In consequence, all of those components are colorless, odorless, monoatomic gases. 

There are six naturally occurring noble gases: helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, and radon. 

The primary and lightest of the noble gases is Helium.

I’ve talked about helium earlier than in a number of episodes. It’s the second most considerable ingredient within the universe after hydrogen. It has an atomic variety of 2, which implies that this can be very gentle. Any helium which is launched into the ambiance will likely be completely misplaced. 

In case you let the gasoline out of a helium balloon, that gasoline will finally rise to the very prime of the ambiance and go into house, and it’ll in all probability be caught within the photo voltaic wind. 

Helium was created within the early universe and it’s also created inside stars. Nevertheless, virtually the entire helium discovered on Earth comes from radioactive decay, specifically alpha decay.

In case you keep in mind again to my episode on radiation, alpha decay is when a radioactive ingredient expells a helium nuclei out of its nucleus. 

Deep inside the Earth, there may be a considerable amount of radioactive decay. This decay is definitely accountable for many of the warmth contained in the core and mantle of the Earth. 

The helium which is created will steadily make its approach up, nearer to the floor. 

Helium was found in 1868 within the solar earlier than it was discovered on Earth. 

Most Helium on Earth comes from drilling for oil and gasoline. Because it rises up, pockets will get caught in anticlines the place oil and gasoline is usually current.  In 1903 in Kansas, when drilling for oil, the drillers hit a gasoline pocket that oddly wouldn’t burn. 

Regardless of being probably the most widespread components within the universe, helium is moderately uncommon on Earth. 

You’re in all probability acquainted with helium and its use in balloons and blimps. It’s nice for lifting, and it doesn’t explode as hydrogen does. 

Nevertheless, there are numerous different industrial functions for helium. It’s utilized in sure welding functions in addition to within the creation of crystals. Liquid helium can be used to chill the highly effective magnets in Magnetic Resonance Imaging machines. 

One probably big future use of helium could be in nuclear fusion. One isotope of helium, specifically, Helium-3 has nice potential for fusion. The issue is, that helium-3 is even rarer than common helium-4. It’s normally created when a helium nucleus is hit by a cosmic ray.

One attainable location the place there is perhaps a considerable amount of helium-3 is the moon. The event of fusion power would possibly simply encourage extra exploration of the moon.

There may be at the moment a scarcity of helium on the earth. This has resulted in a number of physics laboratories canceling initiatives as a result of they’ll’t get sufficient helium. At this time, as I’m penning this episode, Harvard introduced the cancellation of experiments as a result of a scarcity of helium.

One thing to consider the subsequent time you get helium balloons.

The subsequent noble gasoline is one other one that you’re in all probability acquainted with: Neon.

Neon has an atomic variety of 10, and I’m certain everyone seems to be acquainted with neon lights.

Neon was found in 1898 after liquifying atmospheric air and determining what was left after the foremost components have been taken out. Neon is the fifth commonest part of atmospheric air making up 0.0018% of air. 

Neon being heavier than helium, doesn’t escape to house when uncovered to the ambiance. The neon discovered on Earth is a mixture of each primordial neon and neon from radioactive decay.

65% of the neon on the earth comes from a single firm: Iceblick. Iceblick operates in Ukraine and in Russia, and as you possibly can guess, this has resulted in a worldwide scarcity of neon because the begin of the Russo-Ukrainian battle. The value of neon jumped over 600% after the beginning of the battle.

They get neon by separating it from air. In actual fact, the entire noble gases aside from helium are principally acquired through a course of often known as cryogenic air separation. You liquefy air by cooling it down. The first merchandise are liquid oxygen and nitrogen, however you additionally get hint quantities of different gases within the ambiance. 

The most important use for neon, as you would possibly guess, is for neon lights. When {an electrical} present is utilized to neon, it is going to glow a shiny red-orange. In case you see neon indicators in different colours, it’s normally as a result of coloring within the glass tube that incorporates it. 

Past that, there are some restricted makes use of in lasers, pc chip manufacturing, and in vacuum tubes. 

In any utility the place you simply need a gasoline that gained’t react, different gasses are a less expensive different, similar to the subsequent nobel gasoline: Argon

Argon has an atomic variety of 18 and it’s really the third commonest ingredient in air, making up virtually 1% of the air you might be respiration proper now.

Argon is, on common, extra considerable than water vapor and carbon dioxide within the air. The truth that it’s so considerable implies that it’s less expensive than neon or helium.

In case you want one thing very inert, argon is normally going to be the only option as a result of price. Carbon dioxide is usually used as a fireplace suppressant, however in some high-tech functions, argon is used to place out fires as a result of it’s assured to not react to anything.

Argon is a typical gasoline utilized in welding, some aerosol cans, and as a preservative. The unique United States Structure and Declaration of Independence are encased in argon-filled containers. 

The subsequent noble gasoline is krypton. Krypton has an atomic variety of 36, and it’s about 100x rarer than Argon. 

Krypton consists of about 1 half per million of the air within the ambiance you breathe. You will get it from cryogenic air separation like all the opposite gases, however not very a lot, which is why it’s so costly. 

There aren’t quite a lot of makes use of for krypton as a result of usually you would use it you’ll use cheaper argon as an alternative. Nevertheless, there are some very particular technical circumstances the place krypton is extra appropriate, together with as a coolant in high-end physics initiatives. 

Small quantities are additionally utilized in some fluorescent lights and generally as an insulating agent between panes of glass. 

Xenon is the fifth noble gasoline with an atomic variety of 54. It’s 11.5 instances rarer than krypton within the ambiance. 

Xenon is the primary noble gasoline that’s above iron on the interval desk, which, if you happen to keep in mind again to the episode on how stars work, means it isn’t produced in stars through regular stellar evolution. 

It’s produced like heavier components in a supernova, and as a by-product of radioactive decay. 

Xenon created by radioactive decay is definitely a extremely massive downside in nuclear reactors. Xenon-135, which solely has a half-life of 9.2 hours, is what is named a neutron poison. In actual fact, it’s the greatest recognized neutron poison in existence. 

Neutron poisons can actually impede nuclear reactors. Xenon poisoning really contributed to the Chornobyl nuclear catastrophe, and it’s one thing that nuclear engineers have to contemplate at any time when designing a reactor. 

Xenon additionally performed a job in house journey. 

Some satellites use what is named an ionic thruster.  It merely makes use of electrical energy to expel gases which have been given {an electrical} cost. Xenon is a most well-liked gas supply for ionic thrusters as a result of it’s such a heavy gasoline, which suggests every atom expelled offers extra drive.

Whereas xenon is a superb gas supply it’s also actually costly, so many satellites have shifted to iodine. 

The ultimate and heaviest noble gasoline is radon. 

Radon is the one noble gasoline that’s radioactive. It has an atomic variety of 86 and it was found by Nobel prize winner Marie Curie. It’s a product of the pure decay of uranium and thorium through the ingredient radium. 

There are only a few functions for radon.  What little radon that’s collected for industrial use is extremely costly. It’s collected through uranium mining and it could actually promote for 1000’s of {dollars} per milliliter. 

It has some very restricted medical makes use of, however most scientists can use it as a pure radiation marker in soil or groundwater. 

The most important difficulty with radon is that it’s a critical well being menace. As a result of it’s naturally occurring, radioactive, and it’s the heaviest gasoline, it could actually accumulate in locations like basements and mines. Radon will settle in low-lying locations as a result of it’s so heavy.

As it’s an alpha-emitting gasoline, it’s the second-largest reason for lung most cancers after smoking. 

Fortunately, radon is simple to detect and if there’s a build-up of radon it’s simple to repair with correct air flow. 

I ought to notice that there’s a seventh theoretical noble gasoline. It will be ingredient 118 on the periodic desk and it has been given the title Oganesson. It doesn’t exist in nature and it has solely existed in a laboratory for a couple of fractions of a second. 

It was named after Yuri Oganessian who helped uncover lots of the heavy components created in laboratories. 

The noble gases are very completely different than another group of components. They don’t react with something they usually have very restricted use. 

But you’ve unknowingly been respiration them your total life with out even understanding it, except you sucked helium out of a balloon, through which case, you undoubtedly knew it. 


The whole lot In all places Day by day is an Airwave Media Podcast. 

The chief producer is Darcy Adams.

The affiliate producers are Thor Thomsen and Peter Bennett.

At this time’s overview comes from listener Cick digger, over at Apple Podcasts in the US. They write, 

I take heed to this podcast each night time!

I like listening to this podcast. I’ve listened to each episode and normally set a playlist every night time earlier than mattress. My one grievance is that the intro is music is a bit of loud and it makes me bounce generally between episodes. In any other case, I spend most bedtimes listening to this podcast.

Thanks, Cick digger! I’m honored to be part of your night routine. I really run each present by way of a program referred to as Levelator which ranges out the loud and gentle sounds within the podcast. Technically, the music shouldn’t be any louder than different components of the podcast. It’s in all probability simply that it comes alongside hastily. 

Keep in mind, if you happen to depart a overview or ship me a boostagram, you can also have it learn the present.



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