Noble gases, also referred to as inert gases, belong to a group of chemical elements that share similar properties given the conditions are standard. These gases have low chemical reactivity and are colorless and odorless monoatomic gases. There are about 7 of them on the right side of the periodic table, I.E., Helium, Neon, Argon, Krypton, Xenon, Radon, and Oganesson. The first six elements appear to be gassed in ordinary room temperature and pressure. There are no enough atoms of Oganesson in existence to determine its specific phase. However, scientists have predicted that it will exist as a liquid or solid. There are very many uses of inert gases today; you cannot avoid them.
Noble gases are used in areas where reactions are not wanted; for instance, argon is used in lamps to prevent oxidation of the hot tungsten filament. Their ability to the inert atmosphere makes the suitable for deterring chemical reactions protecting specimens and for arc welding. Inert gases do not participate in chemical reactions because their outer shell in the atomic structure is full. When an element has total valence electrons, then it’s stable and does not need to give or acquire any other particles.
Noble gases contain unique properties that make them more relevant in our daily lives. First, they have high ionization energies that limit doping efficiency. Further, they conduct fluoresce and electricity at low pressure. Low boiling point at room temperature is another unique property that noble gases exert. They are also reasonably non-reactive, given favorable conditions, although they may become reactive with harsh conditions. Other vital features of inert gases include non-flammable, no color, flavor, or odor under normal circumstances. However, in harsh conditions, noble gases tend to form colored solids and liquids.
Uses of noble gases in daily life per atom
Although they belong to the same group in the periodic table, the applications of noble gases in everyday life are different.
1. Medical applications
Helium is widely used in hospitals compared to any other place. The most common use is breathing observation. Helium plays a considerable role when it comes to the treatment of nearly all conditions that affect breathing. For example, emphysema and asthma. MRI scans are produced by the help of helium in the hospitals. MRI scans provide detailed images of the internal body structure using a powerful magnet. For the magnet to operate correctly, it is cooled down using helium because of its low boiling point of -452.2°F. In most cases, oxygen is combined with helium to assist it in getting into the lungs faster. Lastly, it is a critical component in nuclear medicine and many medical instruments.
2. Magnet production and Welding
Conduction magnets are cooled down using helium for them to function correctly. It is also used for protection by the welding companies. Besides that, helium is similarly used in the development of silicon germanium, titanium, and zirconium.
3. Space technology application
NASA and SpaceX space shuttles use a combination of oxygen and liquid hydrogen as fuel. However, after the rocket’s fuel tanks are emptied, helium is used to clean them. It is suitable for cleaning these tanks because of its inertness. Meaning that it cannot combust or react with any traces of oxygen and hydrogen left behind.
Helium is used to fill balloons for the meteorologists. Its lightweight allows balloons to float high hence makes it the most suitable among other gases.
5. Fiber cables
The Internet is an essential part of our lives today. It has helped us to link with the outside world, get jobs, and get entertained. Fiber cables bring the Internet to our homes, offices or school. Cable television is supported by fiber optic cables, as well. When manufacturing them, a pure helium atmosphere is required to avoid air bubbles being trapped inside
6. Modern electronics
If you use a computer, tablet, smartphone, video games, or television, then you use helium daily. All these electronics require a semiconductor chip for them to operate appropriately. The semiconductor chip is responsible for housing electrical currents in the device. During the manufacturing, process, helium is needed for the cooling of the semiconductors. Further, it is used in three more other ways. These include leak detection, dilutant for plasma etching, and lastly, as a carrier in the deposition process.
SCUBA divers carry helium because it eases the intake of oxygen in a high-pressure environment. The tank is filled up with 80% helium and 20% oxygen, creating a conducive environment for the divers. Its lightweight is another added advantage of using helium in deep-sea diving. It allows the divers to navigate easily.
8. Electrical discharges/ advertisements
Among all inert gases, only neon can discharge electricity at regular currents and voltages. After current goes through a tube containing neon, an orange-red light comes into view. The most common use of this bright reddish color is in advertisements. Neon only produces the orange, red color, however other colors for advertisements can be obtained from other inert gases. Some lighting systems such as fluorescent and glow lams use neon gas discharge as well
9. Radioisotope dating
Argon gas is used alongside potassium to date objects up to 4 billion years old. Most people confuse it for carbon dating. However, these two are very distinct and independent methods. Carbon dating uses radioactive decay methods to date objects that are only a few thousand years of age.
10. 3D printing
Argon is very important in the three-dimension burgeoning field. It limits stress impact, other reactions and also prevents oxidation as the printing material rapidly heats and cools.
11. Photographic flashes
Xenon is very useful in pressure arc lamps when producing motion picture projection or ultraviolet light. In a short duration, then xenon flash can create a very high spectrum. When high voltage is applied on a glass tube containing xenon gas, a very bright illumination is emitted. Xenon can also be used to make instruments for detecting radiation, medical imaging, and a general anesthetic.
12. Krypton is used in energy, saving fluorescent lights as a filling gas.