MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: Can I do experiments with noble gases in a class safely?

Date: Sat May 15 15:17:20 1999
Posted By: Greta Hardin, Secondary School Teacher, Chemistry, George Washington University
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 926695407.Ch

Can noble gases be worked with safely? Yes.

But it takes precaution and awareness. Noble gases are essentially inert, so they won't react with anything. (Please note there are a FEW rare exceptions to this. But it takes energy to make the compounds form.)

Almost all gases - in order to get enough moles to work with into a reasonable space - are in pressurized canisters. THOSE can be dangerous if you don't know what you are doing - regardless of WHAT is pressurized.

Getting noble gases to DO experiments with is the hardest part. Helium is probobly going to be your best bet since these days warehouse stores and some party supply stores will sell you a "helium ballon kit" with a helium tank included. These are nice because they are all set up to go with a nozzle and everything.

You can also get helium, argon and neon from chemical supply houses - though that will be more expensive. The other noble gases are rare and and radon has a nasty habit of being radioactive. So you may not want bother with Ra, Kr, Xe.

Now - before you rush out and buy that can'o'He... STOP!!!! Talk to your science teacher about what you have in mind. Discuss what you are planning to do before you get it going. Whenever you are using pressurized gas there are lots of things you need to be aware of - and someone with experience may be able to point out thngs you hadn't even thought of.

Since I have no idea what experiment/s you have in mind I can't really say more than that.

Good Luck!

Greta Hardin

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