Though the name may ring some comic book bells, this element isn’t just Superman’s fictional home planet, it is also one of Earth’s rarest gases. This rarity makes krypton almost as elusive as the make believe planet that shares its name.
Noble but Friendly
Despite being a noble gas (colorless, odorless, and possessing a full valence shell of electrons), krypton is more willing to create compounds than its other noble cousins. The most common of these compounds as solid called krypton difluoride.
This gas occurs at only one part per million in Earth’s atmosphere, making it extremely rare, and therefore extremely expensive. Still, it was discovered by Sir William Ramsay at the end of the 19th century, and named krypton after the Greek word “kryptos” meaning hidden.
Like fellow noble gas neon, krypton will light up when exposed to an electrical current under pressure, but in keeping with its unassuming reputation, krypton glows in a smoky white color.
A Bright Idea
Krypton may be elusive, but it’s got all sorts of uses. Being that it is so rare, this is not a favorite material for most applications because it’s quite expensive, but radioactive krypton was once used by Americans to measure Russia’s nuclear output, since it is a byproduct of nuclear reactors.
Krypton fluoride is also used today to create powerful lasers, which can produce incredibly high pulse energy.
As the element’s most common claim to fame, the planet Krypton may have been named such in the Superman comics due to the fact that it’s also a mysterious and unseen place.
Expensive and rare, krypton may not be the most commonly used element, but it still has a place in the modern world.