Xenon is a noble gas (or inert gas) with the symbol, Xe, and the atomic number, 54. Xenon is a clear and colourless, and odorless gas that is quite heavy. Xenon gas is 4.5 times heavier than Earth’s atmosphere (which consists of a mixture of a number of gaseous elements and compounds). This element’s mass comes from its nucleus, which contains 54 protons and a varying (but similar) number of neutrons. Xenon has 17 naturally-occurring isotopes (the most for any element), eight of which are stable, the most for any element, except tin, which has ten.
|Xenon discharge tube|
Tiny amounts of two xenon isotopes, xenon-133 and xenon-135, leak from nuclear reprocessing and power plants, but are released in higher amounts after a nuclear explosion of accident, such as what occurred at Fukushima. Thus, monitoring xenon’s isotopes can ensure compliance with international nuclear test-ban treaties and also to detect whether rogue nations are testing their own nuclear weapons.
Xenon was discovered in England by the Scottish chemist William Ramsay and English chemist Morris Travers on July 12, 1898, shortly after their discovery of the elements krypton and neon. They found xenon in the residue left over from evaporating components of liquid air.
During the 1930s, American engineer Harold Edgerton began exploring strobe light technology for high speed photography. This led him to the invention of the xenon flash lamp, in which light is generated by sending a brief electrical current through a tube filled with xenon gas. In 1934, Edgerton was able to generate flashes as brief as one microsecond with this method.
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