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noble gases


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A group of monatomic gaseous elements forming group 18 (formerly group 0) of the periodic table: helium (He), neon (Ne), argon (Ar), krypton (Kr), xenon (Xe), and radon (Rn). The electron configuration of helium is 1s2. The configurations of the others terminate in ns 2np6 and all inner shells are fully occupied. The elements thus represent the termination of a period and have closed-shell configuration and associated high ionization energies (He 2370 to Rn 1040 kJ mol −1) and lack of chemical reactivity. Being monatomic the noble gases are spherically symmetrical and have very weak interatomic interactions and consequent low enthalpies of vaporization. The behaviour of the lighter members approaches that of an ideal gas at normal temperatures; with the heavier members increasing polarizability and dispersion forces lead to easier liquefaction under pressure. Four types of ‘compound’ have been described for the noble gases but of these only one can be correctly described as compounds in the normal sense. One type consists of such species as HHe +, He2+, Ar2+, HeLi +, which form under highly energetic conditions, such as those in arcs and sparks. They are short-lived and only detected spectroscopically. A second group of materials described as inert-gas-metal compounds do not have defined compositions and are simply noble gases adsorbed onto the surface of dispersed metal. The third type, previously described as ‘hydrates’ are in fact clathrate compounds with the noble gas molecule trapped in a water lattice. True compounds of the noble gases were first described in 1962 and several fluorides, oxyfluorides, fluoroplatinates, and fluoroantimonates of xenon are known. A few krypton fluorides and a radon fluoride are also known although the short half-life of radon and its intense alpha activity restrict the availability of information. Apart from argon, the noble gases are present in the atmosphere at only trace levels. Helium may be found along with natural gas (up to 7%), arising from the radioactive decay of heavier elements (via alpha particles).

Subjects: Chemistry.


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