Gas is one of the four fundamental states of matter (the others being solid, liquid, and plasma). A pure gas may be made up of individual atoms (e.g. a noble gas like neon), elemental molecules made from one type of atom (e.g. oxygen), or compound molecules made from a variety of atoms (e.g. carbon dioxide). A gas mixture, such as air, contains a variety of pure gases. What distinguishes a gas from liquids and solids is the vast separation of the individual gas particles. This separation usually makes a colorless gas invisible to the human observer. The interaction of gas particles in the presence of electric and gravitational fields are considered negligible, as indicated by the constant velocity vectors in the image.

The gaseous state of matter is found between the liquid and plasma states,[1] the latter of which provides the upper temperature boundary for gases. Bounding the lower end of the temperature scale lie degenerative quantum gases[2] which are gaining increasing attention.[3] High-density atomic gases super cooled to incredibly low temperatures are classified by their statistical behavior as either a Bose gas or a Fermi gas. For a comprehensive listing of these exotic states of matter see list of states of matter.

Gas particle movement
Gas phase particles (atoms, molecules, or ions) move around freely in the absence of an applied electric field.

Elemental gases

The only chemical elements that are stable diatomic homonuclear molecules at STP are hydrogen (H2), nitrogen (N2), oxygen (O2), and two halogens: fluorine (F2) and chlorine (Cl2). When grouped together with the monatomic noble gaseshelium (He), neon (Ne), argon (Ar), krypton (Kr), xenon (Xe), and radon (Rn) – these gases are called "elemental gases".


The word gas was first used by the early 17th-century Flemish chemist Jan Baptist van Helmont.[4] He identified carbon dioxide, the first known gas other than air.[5] Van Helmont's word appears to have been simply a phonetic transcription of the Ancient Greek word χάος Chaos – the g in Dutch being pronounced like ch in "loch" (voiceless velar fricative, IPA |x]) – in which case Van Helmont was simply following the established alchemical usage first attested in the works of Paracelsus. According to Paracelsus's terminology, chaos meant something like "ultra-rarefied water".[6]

An alternative story[7] is that Van Helmont's word is corrupted from gahst (or geist), signifying a ghost or spirit. This was because certain gases suggested a supernatural origin, such as from their ability to cause death, extinguish flames, and to occur in "mines, bottom of wells, churchyards and other lonely places". In contrast, French-American historian Jacques Barzun[8] speculated that Van Helmont had borrowed the word from the German Gäscht, meaning the froth resulting from fermentation.

Physical characteristics

Drifting smoke particles provide clues to the movement of the surrounding gas.

Because most gases are difficult to observe directly, they are described through the use of four physical properties or macroscopic characteristics: pressure, volume, number of particles (chemists group them by moles) and temperature. These four characteristics were repeatedly observed by scientists such as Robert Boyle, Jacques Charles, John Dalton, Joseph Gay-Lussac and Amedeo Avogadro for a variety of gases in various settings. Their detailed studies ultimately led to a mathematical relationship among these properties expressed by the ideal gas law (see simplified models section below).

Gas particles are widely separated from one another, and consequently, have weaker intermolecular bonds than liquids or solids. These intermolecular forces result from electrostatic interactions between gas particles. Like-charged areas of different gas particles repel, while oppositely charged regions of different gas particles attract one another; gases that contain permanently charged ions are known as plasmas. Gaseous compounds with polar covalent bonds contain permanent charge imbalances and so experience relatively strong intermolecular forces, although the molecule while the compound's net charge remains neutral. Transient, randomly induced charges exist across non-polar covalent bonds of molecules and electrostatic interactions caused by them are referred to as Van der Waals forces. The interaction of these intermolecular forces varies within a substance which determines many of the physical properties unique to each gas.[9][10] A comparison of boiling points for compounds formed by ionic and covalent bonds leads us to this conclusion.[11] The drifting smoke particles in the image provides some insight into low-pressure gas behavior.

Compared to the other states of matter, gases have low density and viscosity. Pressure and temperature influence the particles within a certain volume. This variation in particle separation and speed is referred to as compressibility. This particle separation and size influences optical properties of gases as can be found in the following list of refractive indices. Finally, gas particles spread apart or diffuse in order to homogeneously distribute themselves throughout any container.


CFD Shuttle
Shuttle imagery of re-entry phase

When observing a gas, it is typical to specify a frame of reference or length scale. A larger length scale corresponds to a macroscopic or global point of view of the gas. This region (referred to as a volume) must be sufficient in size to contain a large sampling of gas particles. The resulting statistical analysis of this sample size produces the "average" behavior (i.e. velocity, temperature or pressure) of all the gas particles within the region. In contrast, a smaller length scale corresponds to a microscopic or particle point of view.

Macroscopically, the gas characteristics measured are either in terms of the gas particles themselves (velocity, pressure, or temperature) or their surroundings (volume). For example, Robert Boyle studied pneumatic chemistry for a small portion of his career. One of his experiments related the macroscopic properties of pressure and volume of a gas. His experiment used a J-tube manometer which looks like a test tube in the shape of the letter J. Boyle trapped an inert gas in the closed end of the test tube with a column of mercury, thereby making the number of particles and the temperature constant. He observed that when the pressure was increased in the gas, by adding more mercury to the column, the trapped gas' volume decreased (this is known as an inverse relationship). Furthermore, when Boyle multiplied the pressure and volume of each observation, the product was constant. This relationship held for every gas that Boyle observed leading to the law, (PV=k), named to honor his work in this field.

There are many mathematical tools available for analyzing gas properties. As gases are subjected to extreme conditions, these tools become more complex, from the Euler equations for inviscid flow to the Navier–Stokes equations[12] that fully account for viscous effects. These equations are adapted to the conditions of the gas system in question. Boyle's lab equipment allowed the use of algebra to obtain his analytical results. His results were possible because he was studying gases in relatively low pressure situations where they behaved in an "ideal" manner. These ideal relationships apply to safety calculations for a variety of flight conditions on the materials in use. The high technology equipment in use today was designed to help us safely explore the more exotic operating environments where the gases no longer behave in an "ideal" manner. This advanced math, including statistics and multivariable calculus, makes possible the solution to such complex dynamic situations as space vehicle reentry. An example is the analysis of the space shuttle reentry pictured to ensure the material properties under this loading condition are appropriate. In this flight regime, the gas is no longer behaving ideally.


The symbol used to represent pressure in equations is "p" or "P" with SI units of pascals.

When describing a container of gas, the term pressure (or absolute pressure) refers to the average force per unit area that the gas exerts on the surface of the container. Within this volume, it is sometimes easier to visualize the gas particles moving in straight lines until they collide with the container (see diagram at top of the article). The force imparted by a gas particle into the container during this collision is the change in momentum of the particle.[13] During a collision only the normal component of velocity changes. A particle traveling parallel to the wall does not change its momentum. Therefore, the average force on a surface must be the average change in linear momentum from all of these gas particle collisions.

Pressure is the sum of all the normal components of force exerted by the particles impacting the walls of the container divided by the surface area of the wall.


Air balloon shrinks after submersion in liquid nitrogen

The symbol used to represent temperature in equations is T with SI units of kelvins.

The speed of a gas particle is proportional to its absolute temperature. The volume of the balloon in the video shrinks when the trapped gas particles slow down with the addition of extremely cold nitrogen. The temperature of any physical system is related to the motions of the particles (molecules and atoms) which make up the [gas] system.[14] In statistical mechanics, temperature is the measure of the average kinetic energy stored in a particle. The methods of storing this energy are dictated by the degrees of freedom of the particle itself (energy modes). Kinetic energy added (endothermic process) to gas particles by way of collisions produces linear, rotational, and vibrational motion. In contrast, a molecule in a solid can only increase its vibrational modes with the addition of heat as the lattice crystal structure prevents both linear and rotational motions. These heated gas molecules have a greater speed range which constantly varies due to constant collisions with other particles. The speed range can be described by the Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution. Use of this distribution implies ideal gases near thermodynamic equilibrium for the system of particles being considered.

Specific volume

The symbol used to represent specific volume in equations is "v" with SI units of cubic meters per kilogram.

The symbol used to represent volume in equations is "V" with SI units of cubic meters.

When performing a thermodynamic analysis, it is typical to speak of intensive and extensive properties. Properties which depend on the amount of gas (either by mass or volume) are called extensive properties, while properties that do not depend on the amount of gas are called intensive properties. Specific volume is an example of an intensive property because it is the ratio of volume occupied by a unit of mass of a gas that is identical throughout a system at equilibrium.[15] 1000 atoms a gas occupy the same space as any other 1000 atoms for any given temperature and pressure. This concept is easier to visualize for solids such as iron which are incompressible compared to gases. Since a gas fills any container in which it is placed, volume is an extensive property.


The symbol used to represent density in equations is ρ (rho) with SI units of kilograms per cubic meter. This term is the reciprocal of specific volume.

Since gas molecules can move freely within a container, their mass is normally characterized by density. Density is the amount of mass per unit volume of a substance, or the inverse of specific volume. For gases, the density can vary over a wide range because the particles are free to move closer together when constrained by pressure or volume. This variation of density is referred to as compressibility. Like pressure and temperature, density is a state variable of a gas and the change in density during any process is governed by the laws of thermodynamics. For a static gas, the density is the same throughout the entire container. Density is therefore a scalar quantity. It can be shown by kinetic theory that the density is inversely proportional to the size of the container in which a fixed mass of gas is confined. In this case of a fixed mass, the density decreases as the volume increases.


If one could observe a gas under a powerful microscope, one would see a collection of particles (molecules, atoms, ions, electrons, etc.) without any definite shape or volume that are in more or less random motion. These neutral gas particles only change direction when they collide with another particle or with the sides of the container. In an ideal gas, these collisions are perfectly elastic. This particle or microscopic view of a gas is described by the Kinetic-molecular theory. The assumptions behind this theory can be found in the postulates section of Kinetic Theory.

Kinetic theory

Kinetic theory provides insight into the macroscopic properties of gases by considering their molecular composition and motion. Starting with the definitions of momentum and kinetic energy,[16] one can use the conservation of momentum and geometric relationships of a cube to relate macroscopic system properties of temperature and pressure to the microscopic property of kinetic energy per molecule. The theory provides averaged values for these two properties.

The theory also explains how the gas system responds to change. For example, as a gas is heated from absolute zero, when it is (in theory) perfectly still, its internal energy (temperature) is increased. As a gas is heated, the particles speed up and its temperature rises. This results in greater numbers of collisions with the container per unit time due to the higher particle speeds associated with elevated temperatures. The pressure increases in proportion to the number of collisions per unit time.

Brownian motion

Diffusion animation
Random motion of gas particles results in diffusion.

Brownian motion is the mathematical model used to describe the random movement of particles suspended in a fluid. The gas particle animation, using pink and green particles, illustrates how this behavior results in the spreading out of gases (entropy). These events are also described by particle theory.

Since it is at the limit of (or beyond) current technology to observe individual gas particles (atoms or molecules), only theoretical calculations give suggestions about how they move, but their motion is different from Brownian motion because Brownian motion involves a smooth drag due to the frictional force of many gas molecules, punctuated by violent collisions of an individual (or several) gas molecule(s) with the particle. The particle (generally consisting of millions or billions of atoms) thus moves in a jagged course, yet not so jagged as would be expected if an individual gas molecule were examined.

Intermolecular forces

3D model hydrogen bonds in water
When gases are compressed, intermolecular forces like those shown here start to play a more active role.

As discussed earlier, momentary attractions (or repulsions) between particles have an effect on gas dynamics. In physical chemistry, the name given to these intermolecular forces is van der Waals force. These forces play a key role in determining physical properties of a gas such as viscosity and flow rate (see physical characteristics section). Ignoring these forces in certain conditions allows a real gas to be treated like an ideal gas. This assumption allows the use of ideal gas laws which greatly simplifies calculations.

Proper use of these gas relationships requires the kinetic-molecular theory (KMT). When gas particles experience intermolecular forces they gradually influence one another as the spacing between them is reduced (the hydrogen bond model illustrates one example). In the absence of any charge, at some point when the spacing between gas particles is greatly reduced they can no longer avoid collisions between themselves at normal gas temperatures. Another case for increased collisions among gas particles would include a fixed volume of gas, which upon heating would contain very fast particles. This means that these ideal equations provide reasonable results except for extremely high pressure (compressible) or high temperature (ionized) conditions. All of these excepted conditions allow energy transfer to take place within the gas system. The absence of these internal transfers is what is referred to as ideal conditions in which the energy exchange occurs only at the boundaries of the system. Real gases experience some of these collisions and intermolecular forces. When these collisions are statistically negligible (incompressible), results from these ideal equations are still meaningful. If the gas particles are compressed into close proximity they behave more like a liquid (see fluid dynamics).

Simplified models

An equation of state (for gases) is a mathematical model used to roughly describe or predict the state properties of a gas. At present, there is no single equation of state that accurately predicts the properties of all gases under all conditions. Therefore, a number of much more accurate equations of state have been developed for gases in specific temperature and pressure ranges. The "gas models" that are most widely discussed are "perfect gas", "ideal gas" and "real gas". Each of these models has its own set of assumptions to facilitate the analysis of a given thermodynamic system.[17] Each successive model expands the temperature range of coverage to which it applies.

Ideal and perfect gas models

The equation of state for an ideal or perfect gas is the ideal gas law and reads

where P is the pressure, V is the volume, n is amount of gas (in mol units), R is the universal gas constant, 8.314 J/(mol K), and T is the temperature. Written this way, it is sometimes called the "chemist's version", since it emphasizes the number of molecules n. It can also be written as

where is the specific gas constant for a particular gas, in units J/(kg K), and ρ = m/V is density. This notation is the "gas dynamicist's" version, which is more practical in modeling of gas flows involving acceleration without chemical reactions.

The ideal gas law does not make an assumption about the specific heat of a gas. In the most general case, the specific heat is a function of both temperature and pressure. If the pressure-dependence is neglected (and possibly the temperature-dependence as well) in a particular application, sometimes the gas is said to be a perfect gas, although the exact assumptions may vary depending on the author and/or field of science.

For an ideal gas, the ideal gas law applies without restrictions on the specific heat. An ideal gas is a simplified "real gas" with the assumption that the compressibility factor Z is set to 1 meaning that this pneumatic ratio remains constant. A compressibility factor of one also requires the four state variables to follow the ideal gas law.

This approximation is more suitable for applications in engineering although simpler models can be used to produce a "ball-park" range as to where the real solution should lie. An example where the "ideal gas approximation" would be suitable would be inside a combustion chamber of a jet engine.[18] It may also be useful to keep the elementary reactions and chemical dissociations for calculating emissions.

Real gas

21 April 1990 eruption of Mount Redoubt, Alaska, illustrating real gases not in thermodynamic equilibrium.

Each one of the assumptions listed below adds to the complexity of the problem's solution. As the density of a gas increases with rising pressure, the intermolecular forces play a more substantial role in gas behavior which results in the ideal gas law no longer providing "reasonable" results. At the upper end of the engine temperature ranges (e.g. combustor sections – 1300 K), the complex fuel particles absorb internal energy by means of rotations and vibrations that cause their specific heats to vary from those of diatomic molecules and noble gases. At more than double that temperature, electronic excitation and dissociation of the gas particles begins to occur causing the pressure to adjust to a greater number of particles (transition from gas to plasma).[19] Finally, all of the thermodynamic processes were presumed to describe uniform gases whose velocities varied according to a fixed distribution. Using a non-equilibrium situation implies the flow field must be characterized in some manner to enable a solution. One of the first attempts to expand the boundaries of the ideal gas law was to include coverage for different thermodynamic processes by adjusting the equation to read pVn = constant and then varying the n through different values such as the specific heat ratio, γ.

Real gas effects include those adjustments made to account for a greater range of gas behavior:

For most applications, such a detailed analysis is excessive. Examples where real gas effects would have a significant impact would be on the Space Shuttle re-entry where extremely high temperatures and pressures were present or the gases produced during geological events as in the image of the 1990 eruption of Mount Redoubt.

Historical synthesis

Boyle's law

Boyle air pump
Boyle's equipment

Boyle's Law was perhaps the first expression of an equation of state. In 1662 Robert Boyle performed a series of experiments employing a J-shaped glass tube, which was sealed on one end. Mercury was added to the tube, trapping a fixed quantity of air in the short, sealed end of the tube. Then the volume of gas was carefully measured as additional mercury was added to the tube. The pressure of the gas could be determined by the difference between the mercury level in the short end of the tube and that in the long, open end. The image of Boyle's Equipment shows some of the exotic tools used by Boyle during his study of gases.

Through these experiments, Boyle noted that the pressure exerted by a gas held at a constant temperature varies inversely with the volume of the gas.[20] For example, if the volume is halved, the pressure is doubled; and if the volume is doubled, the pressure is halved. Given the inverse relationship between pressure and volume, the product of pressure (P) and volume (V) is a constant (k) for a given mass of confined gas as long as the temperature is constant. Stated as a formula, thus is:

Because the before and after volumes and pressures of the fixed amount of gas, where the before and after temperatures are the same both equal the constant k, they can be related by the equation:

Charles's law

In 1787, the French physicist and balloon pioneer, Jacques Charles, found that oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and air expand to the same extent over the same 80 kelvin interval. He noted that, for an ideal gas at constant pressure, the volume is directly proportional to its temperature:

Gay-Lussac's Law

In 1802, Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac published results of similar, though more extensive experiments.[21] Gay-Lussac credited Charles' earlier work by naming the law in his honor. Gay-Lussac himself is credited with the law describing pressure, which he found in 1809. It states that the pressure exerted on a container's sides by an ideal gas is proportional to its temperature.

Avogadro's law

In 1811, Amedeo Avogadro verified that equal volumes of pure gases contain the same number of particles. His theory was not generally accepted until 1858 when another Italian chemist Stanislao Cannizzaro was able to explain non-ideal exceptions. For his work with gases a century prior, the number that bears his name Avogadro's constant represents the number of atoms found in 12 grams of elemental carbon-12 (6.022×1023 mol−1). This specific number of gas particles, at standard temperature and pressure (ideal gas law) occupies 22.40 liters, which is referred to as the molar volume.

Avogadro's law states that the volume occupied by an ideal gas is proportional to the number of moles (or molecules) present in the container. This gives rise to the molar volume of a gas, which at STP is 22.4 dm3 (or litres). The relation is given by

where n is equal to the number of moles of gas (the number of molecules divided by Avogadro's Number).

Dalton's law

Daltons symbols
Dalton's notation.

In 1801, John Dalton published the Law of Partial Pressures from his work with ideal gas law relationship: The pressure of a mixture of non reactive gases is equal to the sum of the pressures of all of the constituent gases alone. Mathematically, this can be represented for n species as:

Pressuretotal = Pressure1 + Pressure2 + ... + Pressuren

The image of Dalton's journal depicts symbology he used as shorthand to record the path he followed. Among his key journal observations upon mixing unreactive "elastic fluids" (gases) were the following:[22]

  • Unlike liquids, heavier gases did not drift to the bottom upon mixing.
  • Gas particle identity played no role in determining final pressure (they behaved as if their size was negligible).

Special topics


Compressibility Factor of Air 75-200 K
Compressibility factors for air.

Thermodynamicists use this factor (Z) to alter the ideal gas equation to account for compressibility effects of real gases. This factor represents the ratio of actual to ideal specific volumes. It is sometimes referred to as a "fudge-factor" or correction to expand the useful range of the ideal gas law for design purposes. Usually this Z value is very close to unity. The compressibility factor image illustrates how Z varies over a range of very cold temperatures.

Reynolds number

In fluid mechanics, the Reynolds number is the ratio of inertial forces (vsρ) to viscous forces (μ/L). It is one of the most important dimensionless numbers in fluid dynamics and is used, usually along with other dimensionless numbers, to provide a criterion for determining dynamic similitude. As such, the Reynolds number provides the link between modeling results (design) and the full-scale actual conditions. It can also be used to characterize the flow.


Satellite view of weather pattern in vicinity of Robinson Crusoe Islands on 15 September 1999, shows a turbulent cloud pattern called a Kármán vortex street

Viscosity, a physical property, is a measure of how well adjacent molecules stick to one another. A solid can withstand a shearing force due to the strength of these sticky intermolecular forces. A fluid will continuously deform when subjected to a similar load. While a gas has a lower value of viscosity than a liquid, it is still an observable property. If gases had no viscosity, then they would not stick to the surface of a wing and form a boundary layer. A study of the delta wing in the Schlieren image reveals that the gas particles stick to one another (see Boundary layer section).


Schlierenfoto Mach 17 Delta - NASA
Delta wing in wind tunnel. The shadows form as the indices of refraction change within the gas as it compresses on the leading edge of this wing.

In fluid dynamics, turbulence or turbulent flow is a flow regime characterized by chaotic, stochastic property changes. This includes low momentum diffusion, high momentum convection, and rapid variation of pressure and velocity in space and time. The satellite view of weather around Robinson Crusoe Islands illustrates one example.

Boundary layer

Particles will, in effect, "stick" to the surface of an object moving through it. This layer of particles is called the boundary layer. At the surface of the object, it is essentially static due to the friction of the surface. The object, with its boundary layer is effectively the new shape of the object that the rest of the molecules "see" as the object approaches. This boundary layer can separate from the surface, essentially creating a new surface and completely changing the flow path. The classical example of this is a stalling airfoil. The delta wing image clearly shows the boundary layer thickening as the gas flows from right to left along the leading edge.

Maximum entropy principle

As the total number of degrees of freedom approaches infinity, the system will be found in the macrostate that corresponds to the highest multiplicity. In order to illustrate this principle, observe the skin temperature of a frozen metal bar. Using a thermal image of the skin temperature, note the temperature distribution on the surface. This initial observation of temperature represents a "microstate". At some future time, a second observation of the skin temperature produces a second microstate. By continuing this observation process, it is possible to produce a series of microstates that illustrate the thermal history of the bar's surface. Characterization of this historical series of microstates is possible by choosing the macrostate that successfully classifies them all into a single grouping.

Thermodynamic equilibrium

When energy transfer ceases from a system, this condition is referred to as thermodynamic equilibrium. Usually, this condition implies the system and surroundings are at the same temperature so that heat no longer transfers between them. It also implies that external forces are balanced (volume does not change), and all chemical reactions within the system are complete. The timeline varies for these events depending on the system in question. A container of ice allowed to melt at room temperature takes hours, while in semiconductors the heat transfer that occurs in the device transition from an on to off state could be on the order of a few nanoseconds.

Effect on state sovereignty

Increased anthropogenic gaseous emissions diminish state sovereignty because states cannot protect their citizens from other states emissions, and the effects of those emissions [23].

See also

Phase transitions of matter ()
basic To
Solid Liquid Gas Plasma
From Solid Melting Sublimation
Liquid Freezing Vaporization
Gas Deposition Condensation Ionization
Plasma Recombination


  1. ^ This early 20th century discussion infers what is regarded as the plasma state. See page 137 of American Chemical Society, Faraday Society, Chemical Society (Great Britain) The Journal of Physical Chemistry, Volume 11 Cornell (1907).
  2. ^ The work by T. Zelevinski provides another link to latest research about Strontium in this new field of study. See Tanya Zelevinsky (2009). "84Sr—just right for forming a Bose-Einstein condensate". Physics. 2: 94. Bibcode:2009PhyOJ...2...94Z. doi:10.1103/physics.2.94.
  3. ^ for links material on the Bose–Einstein condensate see Quantum Gas Microscope Offers Glimpse Of Quirky Ultracold Atoms. ScienceDaily. 4 November 2009.
  4. ^ J. B. van Helmont, Ortus medicinae. … (Amsterdam, (Netherlands): Louis Elzevir, 1652 (first edition: 1648)). The word "gas" first appears on page 58, where he mentions: "… Gas (meum scil. inventum) …" (… gas (namely, my discovery) …). On page 59, he states: "… in nominis egestate, halitum illum, Gas vocavi, non longe a Chao …" (… in need of a name, I called this vapor "gas", not far from "chaos" …)
  5. ^ Ley, Willy (June 1966). "The Re-Designed Solar System". For Your Information. Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 94–106.
  6. ^ Harper, Douglas. "gas". Online Etymology Dictionary.
  7. ^ Draper, John William (1861). A textbook on chemistry. New York: Harper and Sons. p. 178.
  8. ^ Barzun, Jacques (2000). For Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. p. 199.
  9. ^ The authors make the connection between molecular forces of metals and their corresponding physical properties. By extension, this concept would apply to gases as well, though not universally. Cornell (1907) pp. 164–5.
  10. ^ One noticeable exception to this physical property connection is conductivity which varies depending on the state of matter (ionic compounds in water) as described by Michael Faraday in 1833 when he noted that ice does not conduct a current. See page 45 of John Tyndall's Faraday as a Discoverer (1868).
  11. ^ John S. Hutchinson (2008). Concept Development Studies in Chemistry. p. 67.
  12. ^ Anderson, p.501
  13. ^ J. Clerk Maxwell (1904). Theory of Heat. Mineola: Dover Publications. pp. 319–20. ISBN 978-0-486-41735-6.
  14. ^ See pages 137–8 of Society, Cornell (1907).
  15. ^ Kenneth Wark (1977). Thermodynamics (3 ed.). McGraw-Hill. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-07-068280-1.
  16. ^ For assumptions of Kinetic Theory see McPherson, pp.60–61
  17. ^ Anderson, pp. 289–291
  18. ^ John, p.205
  19. ^ John, pp. 247–56
  20. ^ McPherson, pp.52–55
  21. ^ McPherson, pp.55–60
  22. ^ John P. Millington (1906). John Dalton. pp. 72, 77–78.
  23. ^ Habib, Benjamin. "Climate Change and the Re-imagination of State Sovereignty". Global Policy Journal. Durham University. Retrieved 20 February 2019.


  • Anderson, John D. (1984). Fundamentals of Aerodynamics. McGraw-Hill Higher Education. ISBN 978-0-07-001656-9.
  • John, James (1984). Gas Dynamics. Allyn and Bacon. ISBN 978-0-205-08014-4.
  • McPherson, William; Henderson, William (1917). An Elementary study of chemistry.

Further reading

  • Philip Hill and Carl Peterson. Mechanics and Thermodynamics of Propulsion: Second Edition Addison-Wesley, 1992. ISBN 0-201-14659-2
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Animated Gas Lab. Accessed February 2008.
  • Georgia State University. HyperPhysics. Accessed February 2008.
  • Antony Lewis WordWeb. Accessed February 2008.
  • Northwestern Michigan College The Gaseous State. Accessed February 2008.
  • Wikisource Lewes, Vivian Byam; Lunge, Georg (1911). "Gas" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 11 (11th ed.). p. 481–493.
Atmosphere of Earth

The atmosphere of Earth is the layer of gases, commonly known as air, that surrounds the planet Earth and is retained by Earth's gravity. The atmosphere of Earth protects life on Earth by creating pressure allowing for liquid water to exist on the Earth's surface, absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention (greenhouse effect), and reducing temperature extremes between day and night (the diurnal temperature variation).

By volume, dry air contains 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.04% carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gases. Air also contains a variable amount of water vapor, on average around 1% at sea level, and 0.4% over the entire atmosphere. Air content and atmospheric pressure vary at different layers, and air suitable for use in photosynthesis by terrestrial plants and breathing of terrestrial animals is found only in Earth's troposphere and in artificial atmospheres.

The atmosphere has a mass of about 5.15×1018 kg, three quarters of which is within about 11 km (6.8 mi; 36,000 ft) of the surface. The atmosphere becomes thinner and thinner with increasing altitude, with no definite boundary between the atmosphere and outer space. The Kármán line, at 100 km (62 mi), or 1.57% of Earth's radius, is often used as the border between the atmosphere and outer space. Atmospheric effects become noticeable during atmospheric reentry of spacecraft at an altitude of around 120 km (75 mi). Several layers can be distinguished in the atmosphere, based on characteristics such as temperature and composition.

The study of Earth's atmosphere and its processes is called atmospheric science (aerology). Early pioneers in the field include Léon Teisserenc de Bort and Richard Assmann.

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide (chemical formula CO2) is a colorless gas with a density about 60% higher than that of dry air. Carbon dioxide consists of a carbon atom covalently double bonded to two oxygen atoms. It occurs naturally in Earth's atmosphere as a trace gas. The current concentration is about 0.04% (410 ppm) by volume, having risen from pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm. Natural sources include volcanoes, hot springs and geysers, and it is freed from carbonate rocks by dissolution in water and acids. Because carbon dioxide is soluble in water, it occurs naturally in groundwater, rivers and lakes, ice caps, glaciers and seawater. It is present in deposits of petroleum and natural gas. Carbon dioxide is odorless at normally encountered concentrations. However, at high concentrations, it has a sharp and acidic odor.As the source of available carbon in the carbon cycle, atmospheric carbon dioxide is the primary carbon source for life on Earth and its concentration in Earth's pre-industrial atmosphere since late in the Precambrian has been regulated by photosynthetic organisms and geological phenomena. Plants, algae and cyanobacteria use light energy to photosynthesize carbohydrate from carbon dioxide and water, with oxygen produced as a waste product.CO2 is produced by all aerobic organisms when they metabolize carbohydrates and lipids to produce energy by respiration. It is returned to water via the gills of fish and to the air via the lungs of air-breathing land animals, including humans. Carbon dioxide is produced during the processes of decay of organic materials and the fermentation of sugars in bread, beer and wine making. It is produced by combustion of wood and other organic materials and fossil fuels such as coal, peat, petroleum and natural gas. It is an unwanted byproduct in many large scale oxidation processes, for example, in the production of acrylic acid (over 5 million tons/year).It is a versatile industrial material, used, for example, as an inert gas in welding and fire extinguishers, as a pressurizing gas in air guns and oil recovery, as a chemical feedstock and as a supercritical fluid solvent in decaffeination of coffee and supercritical drying. It is added to drinking water and carbonated beverages including beer and sparkling wine to add effervescence. The frozen solid form of CO2, known as dry ice is used as a refrigerant and as an abrasive in dry-ice blasting.

Carbon dioxide is the most significant long-lived greenhouse gas in Earth's atmosphere. Since the Industrial Revolution anthropogenic emissions – primarily from use of fossil fuels and deforestation – have rapidly increased its concentration in the atmosphere, leading to global warming. Carbon dioxide also causes ocean acidification because it dissolves in water to form carbonic acid.


Chlorine is a chemical element with symbol Cl and atomic number 17. The second-lightest of the halogens, it appears between fluorine and bromine in the periodic table and its properties are mostly intermediate between them. Chlorine is a yellow-green gas at room temperature. It is an extremely reactive element and a strong oxidising agent: among the elements, it has the highest electron affinity and the third-highest electronegativity on the Pauling scale, behind only oxygen and fluorine.

The most common compound of chlorine, sodium chloride (common salt), has been known since ancient times. Around 1630, chlorine gas was first synthesised in a chemical reaction, but not recognised as a fundamentally important substance. Carl Wilhelm Scheele wrote a description of chlorine gas in 1774, supposing it to be an oxide of a new element. In 1809, chemists suggested that the gas might be a pure element, and this was confirmed by Sir Humphry Davy in 1810, who named it from Ancient Greek: χλωρός, translit. khlôros, lit. 'pale green' based on its colour.

Because of its great reactivity, all chlorine in the Earth's crust is in the form of ionic chloride compounds, which includes table salt. It is the second-most abundant halogen (after fluorine) and twenty-first most abundant chemical element in Earth's crust. These crustal deposits are nevertheless dwarfed by the huge reserves of chloride in seawater.

Elemental chlorine is commercially produced from brine by electrolysis. The high oxidising potential of elemental chlorine led to the development of commercial bleaches and disinfectants, and a reagent for many processes in the chemical industry. Chlorine is used in the manufacture of a wide range of consumer products, about two-thirds of them organic chemicals such as polyvinyl chloride, and many intermediates for the production of plastics and other end products which do not contain the element. As a common disinfectant, elemental chlorine and chlorine-generating compounds are used more directly in swimming pools to keep them clean and sanitary. Elemental chlorine at high concentrations is extremely dangerous and poisonous for all living organisms, and was used in World War I as the first gaseous chemical warfare agent.

In the form of chloride ions, chlorine is necessary to all known species of life. Other types of chlorine compounds are rare in living organisms, and artificially produced chlorinated organics range from inert to toxic. In the upper atmosphere, chlorine-containing organic molecules such as chlorofluorocarbons have been implicated in ozone depletion. Small quantities of elemental chlorine are generated by oxidation of chloride to hypochlorite in neutrophils as part of the immune response against bacteria.

Fossil fuel

A fossil fuel is a fuel formed by natural processes, such as anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms, containing energy originating in ancient photosynthesis.

The age of the organisms and their resulting fossil fuels is typically millions of years, and sometimes exceeds 650 million years.

Fossil fuels contain high percentages of carbon and include petroleum, coal, and natural gas.

Other commonly used derivatives include kerosene and propane.

Fossil fuels range from volatile materials with low carbon to hydrogen ratios like methane, to liquids like petroleum, to nonvolatile materials composed of almost pure carbon, like anthracite coal.

Methane can be found in hydrocarbon fields either alone, associated with oil, or in the form of methane clathrates.

The theory that fossil fuels formed from the fossilized remains of dead plants by exposure to heat and pressure in the Earth's crust over millions of years was first introduced by Andreas Libavius "in his 1597 Alchemia [Alchymia]" and later by Mikhail Lomonosov "as early as 1757 and certainly by 1763". The first use of the term "fossil fuel" was by the German chemist Caspar Neumann, in English translation in 1759.In 2017 the world's primary energy sources consisted of petroleum (34%), coal (28%), natural gas (23%), amounting to an 85% share for fossil fuels in primary energy consumption in the world.

Non-fossil sources in 2006 included nuclear (8.5%), hydroelectric (6.3%), and others (geothermal, solar, tidal, wind, wood, waste) amounting to 0.9%.

World energy consumption was growing at about 2.3% per year. In 2015 about 18% of worldwide consumption was from renewable sources.Although fossil fuels are continually being formed via natural processes, they are generally considered to be non-renewable resources because they take millions of years to form and the known viable reserves are being depleted much faster than new ones are being made.The use of fossil fuels raises serious environmental concerns.

The burning of fossil fuels produces around 21.3 billion tonnes (21.3 gigatonnes) of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year.

It is estimated that natural processes can only absorb about half of that amount, so there is a net increase of 10.65 billion tonnes of atmospheric carbon dioxide per year.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that increases radiative forcing and contributes to global warming.

A global movement towards the generation of low-carbon renewable energy is underway to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

Gas chamber

A gas chamber is an apparatus for killing humans or other animals with gas, consisting of a sealed chamber into which a poisonous or asphyxiant gas is introduced. The most commonly used poisonous agent is hydrogen cyanide; carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide have also been used. Gas chambers were used as a method of execution for condemned prisoners in the United States beginning in the 1920s and continue to be a legal execution method in three states. During the Holocaust, large-scale gas chambers designed for mass killing were used by Nazi Germany as part of their genocide program. The use of gas chambers in North Korea has also been reported.

Gas constant

The gas constant is also known as the molar, universal, or ideal gas constant, denoted by the symbol R or R and is equivalent to the Boltzmann constant, but expressed in units of energy per temperature increment per mole, i.e. the pressure–volume product, rather than energy per temperature increment per particle. The constant is also a combination of the constants from Boyle's law, Charles's law, Avogadro's law, and Gay-Lussac's law. It is a physical constant that is featured in many fundamental equations in the physical sciences, such as the ideal gas law and the Nernst equation.

Physically, the gas constant is the constant of proportionality that happens to relate the energy scale in physics to the temperature scale, when a mole of particles at the stated temperature is being considered. Thus, the value of the gas constant ultimately derives from historical decisions and accidents in the setting of the energy and temperature scales, plus similar historical setting of the value of the molar scale used for the counting of particles. The last factor is not a consideration in the value of the Boltzmann constant, which does a similar job of equating linear energy and temperature scales.

The gas constant value is

8.3144598(48) J⋅mol−1⋅K−1

The two digits in parentheses are the uncertainty (standard deviation) in the last two digits of the value. The relative uncertainty is 5.7×10−7. Some have suggested that it might be appropriate to name the symbol R the Regnault constant in honour of the French chemist Henri Victor Regnault, whose accurate experimental data were used to calculate the early value of the constant; however, the exact reason for the original representation of the constant by the letter R is elusive.

The gas constant occurs in the ideal gas law, as follows:

where P is the absolute pressure (SI unit pascals), V is the volume of gas (SI unit cubic metres), n is the amount of gas (SI unit moles), m is the mass (SI unit kilograms) contained in V, and T is the thermodynamic temperature (SI unit kelvins). Rspecific is the molar-weight-specific gas constant, discussed below. The gas constant is expressed in the same physical units as molar entropy and molar heat capacity.

Gas turbine

A gas turbine, also called a combustion turbine, is a type of continuous combustion, internal combustion engine. There are three main components:

An upstream rotating gas compressor;

A downstream turbine on the same shaft;

A combustion chamber or area, called a combustor, in between 1. and 2. above.A fourth component is often used to increase efficiency (turboprop, turbofan), to convert power into mechanical or electric form (turboshaft, electric generator), or to achieve greater power to mass/volume ratio (afterburner).

The basic operation of the gas turbine is a Brayton cycle with air as the working fluid. Fresh atmospheric air flows through the compressor that brings it to higher pressure. Energy is then added by spraying fuel into the air and igniting it so the combustion generates a high-temperature flow. This high-temperature high-pressure gas enters a turbine, where it expands down to the exhaust pressure, producing a shaft work output in the process. The turbine shaft work is used to drive the compressor; the energy that is not used for compressing the working fluid comes out in the exhaust gases that can be used to do external work, such as directly producing thrust in a turbojet engine, or rotating a second, independent turbine (known as a power turbine) which can be connected to a fan, propeller, or electrical generator. The purpose of the gas turbine determines the design so that the most desirable split of energy between the thrust and the shaft work is achieved. The fourth step of the Brayton cycle (cooling of the working fluid) is omitted, as gas turbines are open systems that do not use the same air again.

Gas turbines are used to power aircraft, trains, ships, electrical generators, pumps, gas compressors, and tanks.


Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim's belief.Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The term owes its origin to the 1938 Patrick Hamilton play Gaslight and its 1940 and 1944 film adaptations, in which a man dims the gas lights in his home and then persuades his wife that she is imagining the change. The term has been used in clinical and research literature, as well as in political commentary.

Greenhouse gas

A greenhouse gas is a gas that absorbs and emits radiant energy within the thermal infrared range. Greenhouse gases cause the greenhouse effect. The primary greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone. Without greenhouse gases, the average temperature of Earth's surface would be about −18 °C (0 °F), rather than the present average of 15 °C (59 °F). The atmospheres of Venus, Mars and Titan also contain greenhouse gases.

Human activities since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (around 1750) have produced a 40% increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2), from 280 ppm in 1750 to 406 ppm in early 2017. This increase has occurred despite the uptake of more than half of the emissions by various natural "sinks" involved in the carbon cycle. The vast majority of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions (i.e., emissions produced by human activities) come from combustion of fossil fuels, principally coal, oil, and natural gas, with additional contributions coming from deforestation, changes in land use, soil erosion and agriculture (including livestock).Should greenhouse gas emissions continue at their rate in 2017, Earth's surface temperature could exceed historical values as early as 2047, with potentially harmful effects on ecosystems, biodiversity and human livelihoods. At current emission rates temperatures could increase by 2 °C, which the United Nations' IPCC designated as the upper limit to avoid "dangerous" levels, by 2036.


Helium (from Greek: ἥλιος, translit. Helios, lit. 'Sun') is a chemical element with symbol He and atomic number 2. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas, the first in the noble gas group in the periodic table. Its boiling point is the lowest among all the elements. After hydrogen, helium is the second lightest and second most abundant element in the observable universe, being present at about 24% of the total elemental mass, which is more than 12 times the mass of all the heavier elements combined. Its abundance is similar to this figure in the Sun and in Jupiter. This is due to the very high nuclear binding energy (per nucleon) of helium-4 with respect to the next three elements after helium. This helium-4 binding energy also accounts for why it is a product of both nuclear fusion and radioactive decay. Most helium in the universe is helium-4, the vast majority of which was formed during the Big Bang. Large amounts of new helium are being created by nuclear fusion of hydrogen in stars.

Helium is named for the Greek Titan of the Sun, Helios. It was first detected as an unknown yellow spectral line signature in sunlight during a solar eclipse in 1868 by Georges Rayet, Captain C. T. Haig, Norman R. Pogson, and Lieutenant John Herschel, and was subsequently confirmed by French astronomer Jules Janssen. Janssen is often jointly credited with detecting the element along with Norman Lockyer. Janssen recorded the helium spectral line during the solar eclipse of 1868 while Lockyer observed it from Britain. Lockyer was the first to propose that the line was due to a new element, which he named. The formal discovery of the element was made in 1895 by two Swedish chemists, Per Teodor Cleve and Nils Abraham Langlet, who found helium emanating from the uranium ore cleveite. In 1903, large reserves of helium were found in natural gas fields in parts of the United States, which is by far the largest supplier of the gas today.

Liquid helium is used in cryogenics (its largest single use, absorbing about a quarter of production), particularly in the cooling of superconducting magnets, with the main commercial application being in MRI scanners. Helium's other industrial uses—as a pressurizing and purge gas, as a protective atmosphere for arc welding and in processes such as growing crystals to make silicon wafers—account for half of the gas produced. A well-known but minor use is as a lifting gas in balloons and airships. As with any gas whose density differs from that of air, inhaling a small volume of helium temporarily changes the timbre and quality of the human voice. In scientific research, the behavior of the two fluid phases of helium-4 (helium I and helium II) is important to researchers studying quantum mechanics (in particular the property of superfluidity) and to those looking at the phenomena, such as superconductivity, produced in matter near absolute zero.

On Earth it is relatively rare—5.2 ppm by volume in the atmosphere. Most terrestrial helium present today is created by the natural radioactive decay of heavy radioactive elements (thorium and uranium, although there are other examples), as the alpha particles emitted by such decays consist of helium-4 nuclei. This radiogenic helium is trapped with natural gas in concentrations as great as 7% by volume, from which it is extracted commercially by a low-temperature separation process called fractional distillation. Previously, terrestrial helium—a non-renewable resource, because once released into the atmosphere it readily escapes into space—was thought to be in increasingly short supply. However, recent studies suggest that helium produced deep in the earth by radioactive decay can collect in natural gas reserves in larger than expected quantities, in some cases having been released by volcanic activity.


Hydrogen is a chemical element with symbol H and atomic number 1. With a standard atomic weight of 1.008, hydrogen is the lightest element in the periodic table. Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical substance in the Universe, constituting roughly 75% of all baryonic mass. Non-remnant stars are mainly composed of hydrogen in the plasma state. The most common isotope of hydrogen, termed protium (name rarely used, symbol 1H), has one proton and no neutrons.

The universal emergence of atomic hydrogen first occurred during the recombination epoch. At standard temperature and pressure, hydrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, nonmetallic, highly combustible diatomic gas with the molecular formula H2. Since hydrogen readily forms covalent compounds with most nonmetallic elements, most of the hydrogen on Earth exists in molecular forms such as water or organic compounds. Hydrogen plays a particularly important role in acid–base reactions because most acid-base reactions involve the exchange of protons between soluble molecules. In ionic compounds, hydrogen can take the form of a negative charge (i.e., anion) when it is known as a hydride, or as a positively charged (i.e., cation) species denoted by the symbol H+. The hydrogen cation is written as though composed of a bare proton, but in reality, hydrogen cations in ionic compounds are always more complex. As the only neutral atom for which the Schrödinger equation can be solved analytically, study of the energetics and bonding of the hydrogen atom has played a key role in the development of quantum mechanics.

Hydrogen gas was first artificially produced in the early 16th century by the reaction of acids on metals. In 1766–81, Henry Cavendish was the first to recognize that hydrogen gas was a discrete substance, and that it produces water when burned, the property for which it was later named: in Greek, hydrogen means "water-former".

Industrial production is mainly from steam reforming natural gas, and less often from more energy-intensive methods such as the electrolysis of water. Most hydrogen is used near the site of its production, the two largest uses being fossil fuel processing (e.g., hydrocracking) and ammonia production, mostly for the fertilizer market. Hydrogen is a concern in metallurgy as it can embrittle many metals, complicating the design of pipelines and storage tanks.

Ideal gas law

The ideal gas law, also called the general gas equation, is the equation of state of a hypothetical ideal gas. It is a good approximation of the behavior of many gases under many conditions, although it has several limitations. It was first stated by Émile Clapeyron in 1834 as a combination of the empirical Boyle's law, Charles's law, Avogadro's law, and Gay-Lussac's law. The ideal gas law is often written as

where , and are the pressure, volume and absolute temperature; is the number of moles of gas; and is the ideal gas constant. It is the same for all gases. It can also be derived from the microscopic kinetic theory, as was achieved (apparently independently) by August Krönig in 1856 and Rudolf Clausius in 1857.


Methane (US: or UK: ) is a chemical compound with the chemical formula CH4 (one atom of carbon and four atoms of hydrogen). It is a group-14 hydride and the simplest alkane, and is the main constituent of natural gas. The relative abundance of methane on Earth makes it an attractive fuel, although capturing and storing it poses challenges due to its gaseous state under normal conditions for temperature and pressure.

Natural occurring methane is found both below ground and under the sea floor, and is formed by both geological and biological processes. The largest reservoir of methane is under the seafloor in the form of methane clathrates. When methane reaches the surface and the atmosphere, it is known as atmospheric methane. The Earth's atmospheric methane concentration has increased by about 150% since 1750, and it accounts for 20% of the total radiative forcing from all of the long-lived and globally mixed greenhouse gases. Methane has also been detected on other planets, including Mars, which has implications for astrobiology research.

Natural gas

Natural gas, also called "Fossil Gas" is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, but commonly including varying amounts of other higher alkanes, and sometimes a small percentage of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide, or helium. It is formed when layers of decomposing plant and animal matter are exposed to intense heat and pressure under the surface of the Earth over millions of years. The energy that the plants originally obtained from the sun is stored in the form of chemical bonds in the gas.Natural (fossil) gas is a non-renewable hydrocarbon used as a source of energy for heating, cooking, and electricity generation. It is also used as a fuel for vehicles and as a chemical feedstock in the manufacture of plastics and other commercially important organic chemicals. Natural gas is called a non-renewable resource.Natural (fossil) gas is found in deep underground rock formations or associated with other hydrocarbon reservoirs in coal beds and as methane clathrates. Petroleum is another resource and fossil fuel found in close proximity to and with natural gas. Most natural gas was created over time by two mechanisms: biogenic and thermogenic. Biogenic gas is created by methanogenic organisms in marshes, bogs, landfills, and shallow sediments. Deeper in the earth, at greater temperature and pressure, thermogenic gas is created from buried organic material.In petroleum production gas is often burnt as flare gas. The World Bank estimates that over 150 cubic kilometers of natural gas are flared or vented annually. Before natural gas can be used as a fuel, most, but not all, must be processed to remove impurities, including water, to meet the specifications of marketable natural gas. The by-products of this processing include: ethane, propane, butanes, pentanes, and higher molecular weight hydrocarbons, hydrogen sulfide (which may be converted into pure sulfur), carbon dioxide, water vapor, and sometimes helium and nitrogen.

Natural gas is often informally referred to simply as "gas", especially when compared to other energy sources such as oil or coal. However, it is not to be confused with gasoline, especially in North America, where the term gasoline is often shortened in colloquial usage to gas.

Nitrous oxide

Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas or nitrous, is a chemical compound, an oxide of nitrogen with the formula N2O. At room temperature, it is a colourless non-flammable gas, with a slight metallic scent and taste. At elevated temperatures, nitrous oxide is a powerful oxidiser similar to molecular oxygen.

It is soluble in water.

Nitrous oxide has significant medical uses, especially in surgery and dentistry, for its anaesthetic and pain reducing effects. Its name "laughing gas", coined by Humphry Davy, is due to the euphoric effects upon inhaling it, a property that has led to its recreational use as a dissociative anaesthetic. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system. It also is used as an oxidiser in rocket propellants, and in motor racing to increase the power output of engines.

Nitrous oxide occurs in small amounts in the atmosphere, but recently has been found to be a major scavenger of stratospheric ozone, with an impact comparable to that of CFCs. It is estimated that 30% of the N2O in the atmosphere is the result of human activity, chiefly agriculture.

Noble gas

The noble gases (historically also the inert gases; sometimes referred to as aerogens) make up a group of chemical elements with similar properties; under standard conditions, they are all odorless, colorless, monatomic gases with very low chemical reactivity. The six noble gases that occur naturally are helium (He), neon (Ne), argon (Ar), krypton (Kr), xenon (Xe), and the radioactive radon (Rn). Oganesson (Og) is variously predicted to be a noble gas as well or to break the trend due to relativistic effects; its chemistry has not yet been investigated.

For the first six periods of the periodic table, the noble gases are exactly the members of group 18. Noble gases are typically highly unreactive except when under particular extreme conditions. The inertness of noble gases makes them very suitable in applications where reactions are not wanted. For example, argon is used in incandescent lamps to prevent the hot tungsten filament from oxidizing; also, helium is used in breathing gas by deep-sea divers to prevent oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide (hypercapnia) toxicity.

The properties of the noble gases can be well explained by modern theories of atomic structure: their outer shell of valence electrons is considered to be "full", giving them little tendency to participate in chemical reactions, and it has been possible to prepare only a few hundred noble gas compounds. The melting and boiling points for a given noble gas are close together, differing by less than 10 °C (18 °F); that is, they are liquids over only a small temperature range.

Neon, argon, krypton, and xenon are obtained from air in an air separation unit using the methods of liquefaction of gases and fractional distillation. Helium is sourced from natural gas fields that have high concentrations of helium in the natural gas, using cryogenic gas separation techniques, and radon is usually isolated from the radioactive decay of dissolved radium, thorium, or uranium compounds. Noble gases have several important applications in industries such as lighting, welding, and space exploration. A helium-oxygen breathing gas is often used by deep-sea divers at depths of seawater over 55 m (180 ft). After the risks caused by the flammability of hydrogen became apparent, it was replaced with helium in blimps and balloons.


Oxygen is the chemical element with the symbol O and atomic number 8. It is a member of the chalcogen group on the periodic table, a highly reactive nonmetal, and an oxidizing agent that readily forms oxides with most elements as well as with other compounds. By mass, oxygen is the third-most abundant element in the universe, after hydrogen and helium. At standard temperature and pressure, two atoms of the element bind to form dioxygen, a colorless and odorless diatomic gas with the formula O2. Diatomic oxygen gas constitutes 20.8% of the Earth's atmosphere. As compounds including oxides, the element makes up almost half of the Earth's crust.

Dioxygen is used in cellular respiration and many major classes of organic molecules in living organisms contain oxygen, such as proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and fats, as do the major constituent inorganic compounds of animal shells, teeth, and bone. Most of the mass of living organisms is oxygen as a component of water, the major constituent of lifeforms. Oxygen is continuously replenished in Earth's atmosphere by photosynthesis, which uses the energy of sunlight to produce oxygen from water and carbon dioxide. Oxygen is too chemically reactive to remain a free element in air without being continuously replenished by the photosynthetic action of living organisms. Another form (allotrope) of oxygen, ozone (O3), strongly absorbs ultraviolet UVB radiation and the high-altitude ozone layer helps protect the biosphere from ultraviolet radiation. However, ozone present at the surface is a byproduct of smog and thus a pollutant.

Oxygen was isolated by Michael Sendivogius before 1604, but it is commonly believed that the element was discovered independently by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, in Uppsala, in 1773 or earlier, and Joseph Priestley in Wiltshire, in 1774. Priority is often given for Priestley because his work was published first. Priestley, however, called oxygen "dephlogisticated air", and did not recognize it as a chemical element. The name oxygen was coined in 1777 by Antoine Lavoisier, who first recognized oxygen as a chemical element and correctly characterized the role it plays in combustion.

Common uses of oxygen include production of steel, plastics and textiles, brazing, welding and cutting of steels and other metals, rocket propellant, oxygen therapy, and life support systems in aircraft, submarines, spaceflight and diving.

Plasma (physics)

Plasma (from Ancient Greek πλάσμα​, meaning 'moldable substance') is one of the four fundamental states of matter, and was first described by chemist Irving Langmuir in the 1920s. Plasma can be artificially generated by heating or subjecting a neutral gas to a strong electromagnetic field to the point where an ionized gaseous substance becomes increasingly electrically conductive, and long-range electromagnetic fields dominate the behaviour of the matter.Plasma and ionized gases have properties and display behaviours unlike those of the other states, and the transition between them is mostly a matter of nomenclature and subject to interpretation. Based on the surrounding environmental temperature and density, partially ionized or fully ionized forms of plasma may be produced. Neon signs and lightning are examples of partially ionized plasma. The Earth's ionosphere is a plasma and the magnetosphere contains plasma in the Earth's surrounding space environment. The interior of the Sun is an example of fully ionized plasma, along with the solar corona and stars.Positive charges in ions are achieved by stripping away electrons orbiting the atomic nuclei, where the total number of electrons removed is related to either increasing temperature or the local density of other ionized matter. This also can be accompanied by the dissociation of molecular bonds, though this process is distinctly different from chemical processes of ion interactions in liquids or the behaviour of shared ions in metals. The response of plasma to electromagnetic fields is used in many modern technological devices, such as plasma televisions or plasma etching.Plasma may be the most abundant form of ordinary matter in the universe, although this hypothesis is currently tentative based on the existence and unknown properties of dark matter. Plasma is mostly associated with stars, extending to the rarefied intracluster medium and possibly the intergalactic regions.

Royal Dutch Shell

Royal Dutch Shell plc (LSE: RDSA, RDSB), commonly known as Shell, is a British-Dutch oil and gas company headquartered in the Netherlands and incorporated in the United Kingdom. It is one of the six oil and gas "supermajors" and the fifth-largest company in the world measured by 2018 revenues (and the largest based in Europe). Shell was first in the 2013 Fortune Global 500 list of the world's largest companies; in that year its revenues were equivalent to 84% of the Dutch national $556 billion GDP.Shell is vertically integrated and is active in every area of the oil and gas industry, including exploration and production, refining, transport, distribution and marketing, petrochemicals, power generation and trading. It also has renewable energy activities, including in biofuels, wind, energy-kite systems, and hydrogen. Shell has operations in over 70 countries, produces around 3.7 million barrels of oil equivalent per day and has 44,000 service stations worldwide. As of 31 December 2014, Shell had total proved reserves of 13.7 billion barrels (2.18×109 m3) of oil equivalent. Shell Oil Company, its principal subsidiary in the United States, is one of its largest businesses. Shell holds 50% of Raízen, a joint venture with Cosan, which is the third-largest Brazil-based energy company by revenues and a major producer of ethanol.Shell was formed in 1907 through the amalgamation of the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company of the Netherlands and the "Shell" Transport and Trading Company of the United Kingdom. Until its unification in 2005 the firm operated as a dual-listed company, whereby the British and Dutch companies maintained their legal existence but operated as a single-unit partnership for business purposes. Shell first entered the chemicals industry in 1929. In 1970 Shell acquired the mining company Billiton, which it subsequently sold in 1994 and now forms part of BHP Billiton. In recent decades gas exploration and production has become an increasingly important part of Shell's business. Shell acquired BG Group in 2016, making it the world's largest producer of liquefied natural gas (LNG).Shell has a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. It had a market capitalisation of £185 billion at the close of trading on 30 December 2016, by far the largest of any company listed on the London Stock Exchange and among the highest of any company in the world. It has secondary listings on Euronext Amsterdam and the New York Stock Exchange. As of January 2013, Shell's largest shareholder was Capital Research Global Investors with 9.85% ahead of BlackRock in second with 6.89%.

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