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Noble Gases (Group 8A Elements): Definition & Properties

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  • 0:01 The Noble Gases
  • 1:07 Properties
  • 2:39 The Individual Gases
  • 5:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

The noble gases are an inert group of elements with some fun and fascinating uses. This lesson will explore the properties that the noble gases share and will look at some of their uses.

The Noble Gases

The noble gases are a group of elements wearing crowns, sitting on thrones and feasting on the finest foods. All right, you got me. Despite their name, the noble gases aren't actually nobility, but they are a group of gases located on the far right of the periodic table. The noble gases include helium (He), neon (Ne), argon (Ar), krypton (Kr), xenon (Xe) and radon (Rn). The noble gases are also referred to as Group 8A, Group 18, Group VIIIA and even Group 0. Wow, so many names for the same thing!

So, if they aren't wearing crowns and jewels, how in the world did they get the name 'noble gases?' The word 'noble' can refer to a group of people that are little different from the general population. For example, those with nobility have a life that's quite different from your average, everyday person. Well, the noble gases are just a little different from the other elements. So, no crowns or jewels, but the name still fits.

Properties

So, what are these properties that set the noble gases apart from the other elements? Elements are stable when they have a full set of valence electrons, or the outermost electrons that are farthest away from the nucleus. These valence electrons help determine who elements can bond with and give them certain properties. The other representative elements don't have a full set of valence electrons, so they bond with other elements in order to achieve stability.

The noble gases already have a full set of valence electrons; this means they don't need to bond or attach to other elements to achieve stability. Because of this, they're often referred to as inert, or non-reactive. So, like nobility, the noble gases don't often bond or interact with the general population. So, most of the noble gases have eight valence electrons, which is the magic number for stability. The only exception is helium, which has a full set with two electrons.

Okay, so we know noble gases are inert and have a full set of valence electrons, but what else do they have in common? Like their name implies, noble gases are gases at room temperature. More specifically, they are odorless, colorless and tasteless gases. They also have low melting and boiling points.

Although the noble gases can be found on Earth, together they only make up about 1% of the Earth's atmosphere. Most of them can also be found in the Earth's crust, but only in small amounts. The individual elements making up the noble gases are quite fascinating, so let's take a moment to look at each one.

The Individual Gases

Let's start our noble gas tour with helium. Remember, helium is the only noble gas that has two valence electrons. When you think of helium, balloons and talking in a high-pitched voice probably comes to mind, right? But, did you know that even though helium isn't found in high concentrations on Earth, it's the second most abundant element in the universe! This is because helium can be found in stars.

Helium has several commercial uses (other than balloons!). Because it's lighter than air and non-flammable, it has replaced hydrogen in blimps. Hydrogen, as it turns out, was a bit unsafe for blimp passengers. It is also used in deep sea diving to prevent decompression sickness, which can cause serious problems for divers, including death. Moving down the group is neon, and chances are you've probably seen the element neon in the last week or so. Like its name implies, neon is an ingredient in some neon signs.

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