New noble gas chemical compounds created

March 23, 2005

Chemical compounds consisting of noble gases combined with hydrocarbon molecules – a feat previously thought to be unattainable – have been created as the result of the work of researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
This achievement by Benny Gerber, Saerree K. and Louis P. Fiedler Professor of Chemistry, and his associates at the Hebrew University Institute of Chemistry opens the way for further research to produce new chemical compounds in such areas as anesthesiology and high-energy fuels that will be more efficient, safer and ecologically less injurious than materials now in use.

Until now, the "laws" of chemistry decreed that the noble elements, including the gases helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon and radon, which are found on the right-hand side of the periodic table, have a special status. These elements have inert atoms which do not combine chemically with other atoms, except under conditions of extreme energy being applied to release their electrons.

This observation, described towards the end of the 19th century, was explained with the development of quantum theory about 70 years ago, when it was discovered that the inertia of the noble gas atoms derives from their closed and stable electronic shells, which makes these atoms practically impervious to chemical reactions with other atoms.

A major development in "breaking" these electronic shells in order to achieve molecular combinations was accomplished in the 1960s, but only with great difficulty and for a only a few extremely potent reagents, such as fluorine. This limited the types of compounds that could be made and their potential applications.

Since then, the search for new compounds involving noble gases has continued and has represented a significant scientific challenge with great promise.

An important breakthrough in this field was achieved by Prof. Gerber of the Hebrew University when he predicted, on the basis of theoretical calculations, the existence of a new chemical "family" made up of noble gas atoms and hydrocarbons.

Operating on the basis of Prof. Gerber's theories, leading scientists in Finland (Prof. Markku Rasanen and coworkers) and in Moscow (Prof. Vladimir Feldman and others) succeeded in producing the new compounds in their laboratories. The process by which these compounds were obtained was relatively much easier than in previous attempts, without having to resort to the techniques used in the past involving undesirable, extremely reactive materials.

The combining of noble gas atoms with basic organic molecules (hydrocarbons) is an accomplishment which has aroused great interest in the international chemical community and opens the way for new varieties of chemical derivates utilizing these gases. For example, the gas xenon, which does not have any negative physiological effects, could be used to produce new anesthetic compounds. Another possible use would be the production of new fuels that would be more energy efficient and less polluting than those now in use. Other applications could be in the creation of any number of new chemical-based products used in industry, medicine or agriculture that would be less polluting of the environment than materials currently used.

Source: Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Explore further: Metamaterial absorbers for infrared inspection technologies

Related Stories

Metamaterial absorbers for infrared inspection technologies

September 28, 2015

Plasmonic metamaterials are man-made substances whose structure can be manipulated to influence the way they interact with light. As such, metamaterials offer an attractive platform for sensing applications, including infrared ...

Giving atoms their marching orders

June 24, 2015

Chemistry professor Linda Shimizu oversees a series of crowd-pleasing chemistry demonstrations in middle and high schools throughout central South Carolina every year. They are spirited affairs, and her research in the laboratory ...

Catalytic gold nanoclusters promise rich chemical yields

August 25, 2014

( —Old thinking was that gold, while good for jewelry, was not of much use for chemists because it is relatively nonreactive. That changed a decade ago when scientists hit a rich vein of discoveries revealing that ...

Recommended for you

Perfectly accurate clocks turn out to be impossible

October 7, 2015

Can the passage of time be measured precisely, always and everywhere? The answer will upset many watchmakers. A team of physicists from the universities of Warsaw and Nottingham have just shown that when we are dealing with ...

The topolariton, a new half-matter, half-light particle

October 7, 2015

A new type of "quasiparticle" theorized by Caltech's Gil Refael, a professor of theoretical physics and condensed matter theory, could help improve the efficiency of a wide range of photonic devices—technologies, such as ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.