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Noble gas compounds.

Since the inert gases-helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, and radon-had been discovered, over half a century before, they had appeared to be truly inert, since their atoms would from bonds with no other atoms. This made increasing sense when their electronic structure was worked out, since in all cases their outermost electron shell was full so that they had no tendency to gain, lose, or share electrons.

This tendency was not absolute, however. Linus Pauling (see 1931) had pointed out that the inert gas atoms grew less inert as their atomic number increased, so that those with higher atomic numbers might be induced to form a bond with fluorine, which was the most active of all elements and the most apt to snatch an electron from unlikely places.

In 1962 the British born Canadian chemist Neil Bartlett (b. 1932) found that a compound, platinum fluoride, was almost as active as fluorine itself and easier to work with. He immersed it in xenon gas and the two substances combined to form xenon fluoroplatinate. This was the first known case of an inert gas atom forming a bond with any other atom or group of atoms.

Thereafter, other compounds involving fluorine or oxygen were formed, not only with xenon but with radon and krypton. The smaller inert gas molecules-argon, neon, and helium-remained inert, however.

As a result, chemists no longer liked to use the term inert gases, preferring noble gases as less likely to signify absolute inertness. Compounds such as xenon fluoroplatinate are therefore now referred to as noble gas compounds.

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Author:Asimov, Isaac
Publication:Asimov's Chronology of Science & Discovery, Updated ed.
Article Type:Reference Source
Date:Jan 1, 1994
Words:259
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