is element number 54 on the periodic table of the elements.  It has a mass of roughly 131 atomic mass units.  There are 77 neutrons and 54 protons in the nucleus of the atom.  The symbol for xenon is Xe and it belongs to the family of elements called the noble gases.  It is called a noble gas because the valance shell of one atom contains a full shell.  Xenon is one of the most stable elements on the table.  The 54 electrons are arranged, so that there are 2 in the 1st shell, 8 in the 2nd, 18 in the 3rd, 18 in the 4th and lastly 8 in the 5th shell.  The melting and boiling points of xenon are extremely low.  They are -111°C and -107°C respectively.

Xenon and most of the other noble gases were discovered by Sir William Ramsey and M.W. Travers from England in 1898.  The two scientists discovered it mistakenly while experimenting with crude krypton, another noble gas.  They were separating the elements in the crude krypton through a process called fractional distillation.  In fractional distillation, the process separates two elements that have different boiling points.  Basic-ally, when a sample is heated, the faster element leaves first, leaving the second element behind.  Krypton was known to have a boiling point at a temperature that is lower than xenon.  So the scientists could predict that heating the mixture would leave krypton in the container, while the faster boiling xenon leaving it.  After the two scientists separated krypton and xenon, they identified it as a new element through the emission spectrum of the gas.

Xenon is used heavily in light bulbs.  Many of the bulbs in camera flashes have xenon in them, because they can be used over 10,000 times without burning out, as well as producing a good balance of all colors.  Xenon is also used in medical purposes.  Local anesthesia is made up of 20% oxygen and 80% xenon.  Xenon also can be injected or breathed into the body to give clearer M.R.I.’s or X-rays.  In addition to the uses above, xenon is also in movie projector lamps, advertising lights, and bubble chambers, Bubble chambers are devices used by physicists that are used to detect nuclear radiation.  The element is very chemically stable and unradioactive and is generally not harmful to man.  Xenon is also nonflammable.  It is only when it combines with other elements that xenon becomes hazardous.  Xenon compounds are highly radioactive.  This element accounts for a very minimal amount of the earth’s crust.  Only 3×10-9% of the earth contains xenon.  The element is mostly found in the air, and is only collected through special air separation plants.

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