The Chemistry of Non-Metals
Non-metals do not conduct electricity, do not conduct heat, are not hard or shiny and are usually a gas in their pure form. The exception is carbon, which does conduct heat and electricity in some forms and which has the ability to make the hardest substance on earth (diamonds) under some conditions. In the Periodic Table below the non-metals are shown in yellow.
The elements that make up the universe are very orderly, not at all random or haphazard. Notice that the non-metals, which have similar characteristics to each other are all together on the periodic chart. Of course the periodic table is a man-made way of sorting the elements, but the elements are able to be sorted according to both numbers of electrons, protons, and neutrons, numbers of electrons in their outer shell, and thus reactivity, and also according to their other physical characteristics simultaneously. In other words Fluorine (F) and Chlorine (Cl) behave similarly to one another because they have the same number of valance electrons and a similar mass. They are also right next to each other in the periodic table and so you would predict that they would have similar characteristics. This order is a human discovery shown by the Periodic Table and not a human invention.
Noble gases are found on the far right hand column of the periodic table. They have eight electrons in their outer shell, fulfilling their electron needs. Thus they do not need to react and under normal conditions do not react. They are therefore called the inert gases as well, though they can react and form compounds under some circumstances.
They can be found in helium balloons, neon lights, argon in incandescent bulbs, xenon in newer style car headlamps, and so on. They are useful in these places because they do not react. They are found in small amounts in the atmosphere as single atoms.
Play A Noble Gas Game
One person is the noble gas and holds a card with their chemical symbol (pick He, Ne, Ar, Kr, or Xe). Everyone else can choose any other element while holding a card with their symbol.
The kids should try to act like their element. The most reactive elements are the ones in Periods 1 and 17, with elements growing slightly less reactive as you move toward the center of the periodic table. Metals like gold (Au), silver (Ag), Platinum (Pt), and Palladium (Pd) are very stable as well. The player with the noble gas card should sit perfectly still, with no emotion or “reaction” (you must allow breathing and blinking). The object is for the other players with their antics to get the noble gas to react. When the noble gas finally reacts it is the next person’s turn to be a noble gas. You can time the noble gases to see how long they last. The one to hold out longest is the winner.