Chemical properties of the noble gases

Compared to other elements, the noble gases are inert - they are extremely unreactive.

Explaining the inertness of noble gases

When elements react, their atoms complete their outer shells by losing, gaining, or sharing electrons. The atoms of noble gases already have complete outer shells, so they have no tendency to lose, gain, or share electrons. This is why the noble gases are inert and do not take part in chemical reactions.

The table summarises the electronic structures of elements in groups 1, 7 and 0. You should see that:

  • atoms of group 1 and 7 elements have incomplete outer shells (so they are reactive)
  • atoms of group 0 elements have complete outer shells (so they are unreactive)
The electron structures of helium, lithium, fluorine, neon, sodium, chlorine, argon and potassium.

Properties and uses of noble gases

The main properties of the noble gases include:

Many uses of the noble gases are linked to one or more of these properties. For example:

  • helium is used to fill balloons because of its very low density
  • argon is used instead of air in lightbulbs because it is inert and will not react with the hot metal filament
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