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In conjunction with periodic table day, we feel that it is important that you know your gas symbols. This blog post explores the basic facts and whereabouts of the gases in the periodic table.


The Periodic Table

The periodic table is all of the different elements arranged in a chart: the positioning of these elements in the table can provide more information about their properties. Dmitri Mendeleev, a russian scientist, produced one of the first periodic tables in the 19th century, which the modern periodic table is now closely based on.

There are 118 elements on the periodic table, with 11 of those elements being gases at room temperature.


Let’s take a look at the periodic table:



Noble Gases

Group 18 (the elements in blue) are noble gases. These gases were initially called “inert gases” due to having minimal reactivity. The 6 noble gases are as follows:

  • Helium (He)
  • Neon (Ne)
  • Argon (Ar)
  • Krypton (Kr)
  • Xenon (Xe)
  • Radon (Rn) – whilst radon has minimal reactivity, it is a toxic gas due to being radioactive.


Diatomic Gases

The other gas elements on the periodic table are diatomic, meaning when they appear in elemental form, the have two atoms per molecule. These are: Hydrogen (H2), oxygen (O2), nitrogen (N2), fluorine (F2) and chlorine (Cl2).


Are they reactive or toxic?

Fluorine and chlorine (Group 17)  are both halogens and are therefore highly reactive and extremely toxic. Oxygen and nitrogen, are reactive gases or can be made to react but are not toxic, these elements are placed next to each other on the periodic table (groups 15 & 16). Hydrogen is highly reactive, but is not however toxic.


Which gases could suffocate you?

All of the noble gases (group 18) could suffocate you, as could hydrogen and nitrogen if you ingest pure forms of them, and/or if your oxygen supply was quenched. Another term for this is oxygen depletion.


The risk of oxygen depletion

In the air a normal concentration of oxygen is approximately 21%, while the rest of the atmosphere is made up of a mixture of approximately 78% nitrogen and trace gases.  

Noble gases such argon and helium, as well as nitrogen, are not toxic, but they do not support human breathing and reduce levels of oxygen in the air. They are odourless, colourless and tasteless making them virtually undetectable.

An increase in the concentration of any other gases that are not oxygen can lead to a situation where individuals are at risk of asphyxiation which can cause serious injury to health or even death.

This removal of oxygen gas in the air we breathe makes having an oxygen depletion sensor not just useful, but essential to maintaining life.

Celebrating periodic table day and the gases which are used in everyday life, some of which are intergural for some important, even life saving processes to exist, is a great way to champion them, but it’s also important to highlight the dangers some of these gases can create if not handled correctly.



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