Rare Gases

Neon (Ne), Krypton (Kr) and Xenon (Xe) are referred to as the rare gases as they comprise a minimal amount of the earth’s atmosphere. These rare gases are produced in the same cryogenic separation and purification process that produces Oxygen, Nitrogen and Argon but in much smaller quantities leading to a higher cost of the gas.

The use of rare gases in industry has been growing in recent years in many new and exciting applications from medical to lighting to automotive and aerospace technology. These rare gases are seen in not-so-rare places such as headlights, cell phone technology, and rocket propulsion. Additionally these gases are used in glass fiber optics, aerospace technology, and neon lighting.

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Primary Applications

Neon
Krypton
Xenon

Neon is particularly useful in medical ophthalmology as its use in surgery can shorten healing time. As such, corneal operations for eyesight correction utilize a gas mixture comprised of neon and other gases. Neon is also used frequently as a part of colored lighting for commercial signage.

Generally inert, Krypton is used in high-powered gas lasers. Krypton ion lasers and excimer lasers for use in microelectronics, semi-conductor integrated circuits, eye surgery and micromachining. Krypton is also used in automotive headlights and as a filler between panes of glass, acting as an insulator against temperature variations. Halogen lighting also uses Krypton as the filler gas.

The aerospace industry uses Xenon as a propellant for ion thrusters in spacecraft. Airports use Xenon in the lighting for runways due to its bright blue hue. Xenon is also used in flash lamps and arc lamps; in medical applications as a general anesthetic; and as part of the of the gas mixture in plasma display screens.