You might have heard of kryptonite: Superman’s ultimate weakness. But have you heard of krypton?
Krypton is a noble gas: that means it doesn’t smell, doesn’t have a colour and doesn’t react with the world around it.
In fact, for a long time after its discovery in 1898 most scientists believed that krypton couldn’t combine with any other elements.
But in 1963, scientists showed they could make a chemical which combined krypton with the element fluoride. This chemical needs to be cold or it doesn’t stick around long. It needs to be kept at -30˚C, brr!
Even though it doesn’t have a colour or a smell, that doesn’t mean krypton is dull as ditch-water (after all, ditch water’s actually pretty smelly).
When electricity is passed through it, krypton glows a very bright white, so it’s good for lighting.
Krypton is one of the gases used to fill energy-saving light-bulbs. And if you’ve ever seen advertising signs where all the letters are glowing different colours, chances are it’s krypton inside the greeny-yellow parts.
Because it produces a brilliant white light, krypton is also very good for photography.
Krypton is also used in lasers. Krypton-fluorine lasers are insanely powerful: one pulse from these lasers has about 500 times the power of the entire electrical grid of the USA.
These pulses only last a very short time though: about four billionths of a second.
Blink and you’ll miss it.