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Inert Gases vs. Noble Gases: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 18, 2023
Inert gases are elements or compounds that resist chemical reactions; noble gases are a group of inert gases in the Group 18 of the periodic table.

Key Differences

Inert gases, in general, are gases that do not easily participate in chemical reactions due to their stable electron configurations. Noble gases, a specific group within inert gases, belong to Group 18 of the periodic table and are characterized by their complete valence electron shells, which make them extremely stable and unreactive.
All noble gases are inert, not all inert gases are noble gases. Inert gases can include certain compounds that are chemically nonreactive, like nitrogen gas under standard conditions. Noble gases, however, are purely elemental and include helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, and radon.
Inert gases are used in a variety of industrial applications due to their non-reactivity, such as in welding and lighting. Noble gases have specific uses due to their unique properties; for example, helium is used in balloons and as a cooling medium, and neon is used in lighting.
The term 'inert gas' is sometimes used broadly to include any gas that is not chemically active under certain conditions, whereas 'noble gas' is a more specific term referring to the particular elements in the periodic table's Group 18.

Comparison Chart


Gases resistant to chemical reactions
Specific group of inert gases in Group 18


Can be elements or compounds
Purely elemental


Includes noble gases and others like nitrogen
Helium, Neon, Argon, Krypton, Xenon, Radon


Generally low, but varies
Extremely low, almost non-reactive


Diverse, depending on the gas
Specific uses like in lighting and cooling

Inert Gases and Noble Gases Definitions

Inert Gases

Inert gases can be elemental or compound gases.
Nitrogen gas is inert under normal conditions.

Noble Gases

Noble gases have complete valence electron shells.
Neon lights are bright due to the noble gas neon.

Inert Gases

Inert gases have stable electron configurations.
Nitrogen, often considered inert, makes up about 78% of Earth's atmosphere.

Noble Gases

Noble gases are in Group 18 of the periodic table.
Argon, a noble gas, is commonly used in fluorescent lights.

Inert Gases

Inert gases are gases that do not readily engage in chemical reactions.
Argon, an inert gas, is used to create an inert atmosphere for welding.

Noble Gases

Noble gases are a group of chemically nonreactive gases.
Helium, a noble gas, is used in balloons due to its lightness.

Inert Gases

Inert gases are used for their non-reactivity.
Inert gases are used in light bulbs to prevent filament oxidation.

Noble Gases

Noble gases have unique applications due to their properties.
Radon, a noble gas, is monitored due to its radioactivity.

Inert Gases

Inert gases can vary in their chemical inertness.
Some inert gases are used in fire suppression systems.

Noble Gases

Noble gases are elemental and extremely stable.
Xenon is used in flash lamps and arc lamps.


What are inert gases?

Inert gases are elements that are very non-reactive due to their stable electron configuration.

Are all inert gases noble gases?

Yes, all noble gases are considered inert gases due to their low reactivity.

What makes noble gases inert?

Their outermost electron shell is full, making them energetically stable and less likely to react with other elements.

Why are they called 'noble gases'?

They are called 'noble' because, like nobility, they are 'above' reacting with the commoners – other elements.

Where can you find inert gases in nature?

Inert gases are found in the Earth's atmosphere, with argon being the most abundant.

How were noble gases discovered?

Noble gases were discovered in the late 19th century through the study of air's composition.

What are noble gases?

Noble gases are a group of inert gases that include helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, and radon.

What are the uses of noble gases?

Uses include lighting (neon lights), welding (argon), and cooling (helium).

Is helium the lightest noble gas?

Yes, helium is the lightest noble gas and the second lightest element.

Are inert gases rare?

Some, like argon, are quite common, while others, like xenon, are relatively rare.

Can inert gases form compounds?

While traditionally considered non-reactive, under extreme conditions, some noble gases can form compounds.

Do inert gases have color or smell?

Inert gases are colorless and odorless at standard temperature and pressure.

Can noble gases conduct electricity?

In their standard state, they do not conduct electricity, but under certain conditions, they can form plasma that conducts electricity.

Are noble gases used in medicine?

Yes, for example, helium is used in respiratory treatments, and xenon is used in anesthesia.

Do inert gases react with water?

No, inert gases do not react with water under normal conditions.

How do noble gases affect the environment?

Noble gases are environmentally inert and do not generally affect the environment.

Why is radon dangerous?

Radon is radioactive and can pose serious health risks, particularly lung cancer, when inhaled over long periods.

Why are noble gases used in light bulbs?

They are used in light bulbs to provide an inert environment, preventing filament degradation.

Are inert gases safe?

They are generally safe as they are non-toxic and non-reactive, but they can pose asphyxiation risks in high concentrations.

How are noble gases obtained industrially?

They are typically extracted from the air through fractional distillation of liquefied air.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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