Noble gas

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The noble gases are a group of chemical elements with very similar properties: under standard conditions, they are all odorless, colorless, monatomic gases, with very low chemical reactivity. The six noble gases that occur naturally are helium (He), neon (Ne), argon (Ar), krypton (Kr), xenon (Xe), and the radioactive radon (Rn).

For the first six periods of the periodic table, the noble gases are exactly the members of group 18 of the periodic table. However, this no longer holds in the seventh period (due to relativistic effects): the next member of group 18, ununoctium, is probably not a noble gas.[1] Instead, group 14 member ununquadium exhibits noble-gas-like properties.[2]

The properties of the noble gases can be well explained by modern theories of atomic structure: their outer shell of valence electrons is considered to be "full", giving them little tendency to participate in chemical reactions, and it has only been possible to prepare a few hundred noble gas compounds. The melting and boiling points for each noble gas are close together, differing by less than 10 °C (18 °F); consequently, they are liquids over only a small temperature range.

Neon, argon, krypton, and xenon are obtained from air using the methods of liquefaction of gases and fractional distillation. Helium is typically separated from natural gas, and radon is usually isolated from the radioactive decay of dissolved radium compounds. Noble gases have several important applications in industries such as lighting, welding, and space exploration. A helium-oxygen breathing gas is often used by deep-sea divers at depths of seawater over 180 feet (55 m) to keep the diver from experiencing oxygen toxemia, the lethal effect of high-pressure oxygen, and nitrogen narcosis, the distracting narcotic effect of the nitrogen in air beyond this partial-pressure threshold. After the risks caused by the flammability of hydrogen became apparent, it was replaced with helium in blimps and balloons.

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