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.

Xenon as well as being used in flash lamps and arc lamps is also used as a general anaesthetic. Although it is expensive, anesthesia machines that can deliver xenon are about to appear on the European market, because advances in recovery and recycling of xenon have made it economically viable.
The first excimer laser design used a xenon dimer molecule (Xe2) as its lasing medium, and the earliest laser designs used xenon flash lamps as pumps. Xenon is also being used to search for hypothetical weakly interacting massive particles and as the propellant for ion thrusters in spacecraft.  It is also used in car headlights.

Xenon is obtained commercially as a byproduct of the separation of air into oxygen and nitrogen.
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Posted on July 11, 2014, in Useful Information. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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