Why Don't Noble Gases Bond?

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  • 0:05 Non-Reactive Gases
  • 1:49 Where We Find Noble Gases
  • 2:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Noble gases are a unique set of elements in the periodic table because they don't naturally bond with other elements. In this video lesson, we'll explore why these special gases prefer to go it alone and where you might find them.

Non-Reactive Gases

If you take a close look at the periodic table, you'll notice a very special column all the way on the right hand side. In this column are some very unique elements called the noble gases. These are helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, and radon. All of the noble gases are grouped together because they are virtually non-reactive. And, legend has it that the term 'noble' came from earlier times when nobility didn't interact with 'common folk.' These gases are so non-reactive, in fact, that they're sometimes called inert.

What makes these atoms so cool and unflappable is the number of electrons in their outer shells. You may remember that while protons and neutrons are found within the nucleus of the atom, electrons are not restricted to this area. Instead, they sort of orbit around the nucleus in different energy shells.

Each of these shells has a maximum number of electrons that it can, and likes, to hold. Shells closest to the nucleus get filled first, then the next shell, and then the next. The number of shells depends on the element. Most elements do not have outer shells that are filled with their maximum number of electrons and are, therefore, looking to pair up with another element that also needs to fill its outer shell. We call these reactive elements, because these atoms really like to follow the buddy system and form bonds with other atoms.

Noble gases, however, don't have this problem. Their outer shells are filled to the max, so they don't need to bond or react with any other atoms. They're pretty content to just hang out by themselves and do their own thing. It's not so much that they don't like other atoms, they're just very independent and don't really need the companionship.

Where We Find Noble Gases

You probably recognize a few of the noble gases, but I'm guessing that you've encountered most, if not all, of them at some point in your life!

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