What is Xenon: Uses and More

What is xenon? It’s not something that common people encounter on a daily basis. This could be the first time that you’ve heard of it. If you’ve heard it before, you didn’t really mind it.

Nowadays though, you can benefit from knowing what it is, its uses and more. This is because it’s actually found in a lot of things that we use. This is why we encourage you to keep on reading so you’ll know everything there is to know about it.

chemical elements

What is Xenon?

It’s actually a chemical element. It’s found in the atmosphere of our planet in small amounts. It’s derived from a Greek word that translates to “stranger”. Morris Travers and William Ramsay made the discovery in 1898. It carries the symbol Xe and has the atomic number 54 meaning its nucleus has 54 protons. Just like the other in its group, it’s in Group 18. Xenon is in Period 5.

It belongs to a group of chemical elements that share these properties – dense, colorless and odorless. Members of this group are neon, helium, krypton and argon. This group is inert or un-reactive. Although, xenon is not completely un-reactive. This was proven by Neil Bartlett in 1962 when he was able to form a compound that consists of platinum, fluoride and xenon.

Where is Xenon Found?

As mentioned, it’s found in the atmosphere. One part can be found in 20 million, making it a very rare element. It’s also found in the atmosphere of planet Mars.

You’re probably thinking that it’s impossible to extract it because it’s in the atmosphere in small amounts. It’s also found here in the planet with some mineral springs emitting it. There are also industrial plants that harvest the gas from liquid air. This is usually how companies extract it to be used commercially.

There’s also the possibility that it can be found inside the Earth’s core. It’s just suspicion at this point. Scientists are basing this suspicion on what they know about other noble gases. The environment of the Earth’s core is causing xenon to make a bond with nickel and iron. This is why they believe that it’s stored there.

Scientists are hoping to confirm their suspicions soon.

Xenon Properties

Here are the xenon properties that you have to know:

  • It’s a noble gas.

This simply means that it belongs to a group of elements that doesn’t react with other elements because they’re way above them. Noble gases are also called inert gases and as such, they don’t naturally react with other elements.

As mentioned, xenon is not totally inert. Neil Bartlett was able to make xenon platinofluoride. This led to other chemists to making other compounds.

  • It’s very rare.

This colorless and odorless gas is considered to be a trace gas in the atmosphere. It occurs at a very rare 1 part in 20 million. It can be produced commercially. Plants around the world can only produce less than a ton each year, though.

  • It’s more or less 4 times denser than air.

Air has a density of 1.29 grams per liter. On the other hand, xenon has a density of 5.8971 grams per liter.

  • It has a melting point of – 112 °C.

Gas doesn’t technically melt. In this case, it means that this is the temperature wherein xenon, in its liquid form, turns solid.

  • It has a boiling point of – 107 °C.

Being a gas, it doesn’t technically boil. This means that this is the temperature wherein xenon gas turns liquid.

  • It’s generally harmless.

It’s an atmospheric gas so it’s considered to be harmless. However, some of its compounds can be toxic and even fatal. This is especially true if compounded with oxygen. It can even explode.

Xenon Facts

Here are some additional xenon facts:

  • It came from the Greek word xenos which means stranger.
  • Its discoverers, William Ramsay and Morris Travers, also discovered neon and krypton.
  • It was discovered when the discoverers evaporated liquid air and studied its remains.
  • While considered to be unreactive, it can actually be reactive with fluorine when high pressure and/or temperature are applied.
  • It follows the octet rule which is why it’s generally unreactive. This means that you’d need an immense amount of energy (1172 kJ/mol) to take out electron from xenon. To take out a second electron, 2046.4 kJ/mo of energy is required.
  • Pure xenon, considered to be the most stable, oxidizes at 0. Otherwise, it oxides at +1, +2, +4, +6 and +8.
  • As far as isotopes are concerned, there are 8 stable and 30 unstable. Only tin has more stable isotopes with 10.
  • While considered a trace gas in the atmosphere of Earth and Mars, there is a massive amount of it in Jupiter.
  • It can be turned metallic by applying a high amount of pressure. In this state, it can turn sky blue in color.

What is Xenon Used for?

It’s popularly used in lamps. This is because a glow of blue is emitted when you apply electricity to it. Think of how neon lights work.

These lamps are not just for show. They are also utilized to disinfect the room and clear it of bacteria. This is why they’re used in hospitals including hospital equipment. This is also the reason why these lamps are used in the food industry.

As lamps, xenon is also applied to photography as electronic flash bulbs that are characterized by their high speeds. They’re also used in ruby lasers.

Xenon also plays an important role in satellites. Xenon ion is used in systems that propel satellites and similar spacecraft to keep them from falling. In fact, NASA has a Xenon Ion Drive engine that propels them at speeds of up to 146,000 kilometers per hour.

Xenon vs LED vs Halogen

xenon headlight

This is a common conversation among car owners because they want to find the best headlight for them and they generally have these 3 choices:

  • Xenon

This comes in the form of xenon HID (High Intensity Discharge). It’s fast becoming standard issue on higher-end models because it gives a first-class appearance.

This works by using electrodes in charging the bulb’s gas. This process produces the bright white light.

  • LED

LED highlights are characterized by their extremely white light. This light is produced by utilizing negative electrons in order to produce protons. This occurs thousands of times a second. While a relatively new player, it should be a popular choice soon because of its efficiency.

  • Halogen

This type is what you usually find on the road. It’s a favorite of manufacturers because it’s very easy and affordable to produce. It’s also very easy to replace halogen bulbs which is appreciated by vehicle owners.

There is a filament inside the bulb. Together with halogen gas, there’s tungsten in the filament that heats up when electricity reaches it. This results to the glow.

Here are the important things to consider for you to make your choice:

  • Color temperature

It’s basically a tie between xenon HID and LED with a color temperature estimated at anywhere from 4000k and 6000k. Halogen trails behind at just between 3200k and 5000k.

  • Lifetime

LED stands out with an estimated life of 5,000 hours. Xenon HID comes in at second at 2,500 hours. On the other hand, halogen is at a paltry 200 to 400 hours.

  • Ease of installation

This is where halogen stands out. It’s very easy to install. Most vehicle owners can just slot it at its place. On the other hand, you need an automotive electrician to install the other two.

If you ever want to have outdoor lighting installed, make sure to get quotes for it through our website. You can also easily get quotes from electricians and construction contractors for whatever your project is, even for things that involve installing xenon lights in your home.