Science Education Home Home Teachers Students Games Videos VA SOL Programs

It's Elemental

The Element Radon

[Click for Isotope Data]


86 Rn Radon 222

Atomic Number: 86

Atomic Weight: 222

Melting Point: 202 K (-71°C or -96°F)

Boiling Point: 211.45 K (-61.7°C or -79.1°F)

Density: 0.00973 grams per cubic centimeter

Phase at Room Temperature: Gas

Element Classification: Non-metal

Period Number: 6

Group Number: 18

Group Name: Noble Gas

Special Notes: Radioactive

What's in a name? Named for the element Radium.

Say what? Radon is pronounced as RAY-don.

History and Uses:

Radon was discovered by Friedrich Ernst Dorn, a German chemist, in 1900 while studying radium's decay chain. Originally named niton after the Latin word for shining, nitens, radon has been known as radon since 1923. Today, radon is still primarily obtained through the decay of radium.

At normal room temperatures, radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas. The most common forms of radon decay through alpha decay. Alpha decay usually isn't considered to be a great radiological hazard since the alpha particles produced by the decay are easily stopped. However, since radon is a gas, it is easily inhaled and living tissue is directly exposed to the radiation. Although it has a relatively short half-life, radon decays into longer lived, solid, radioactive elements which can collect on dust particles and be inhaled as well. For these reasons, there is some concern as to the amount of radon present within homes. Radon seeps into houses as a result of the decay of radium, thorium or uranium ores underground and varies greatly from location to location. On average, the earth's atmosphere is 0.0000000000000000001% radon.

When cooled to its solid state, radon glows yellow. The glow becomes orange-red as the temperature is lowered.

Radon's most stable isotope, radon-222, has a half-life of about 3.8 days. It decays into polonium-218 through alpha decay.

Small amounts of radon are sometimes used by hospitals to treat some forms of cancer. Radon fluoride (RnF) is the only confirmed compound of radon.

Estimated Crustal Abundance: 4×10-13 milligrams per kilogram

Estimated Oceanic Abundance: 6×10-16 milligrams per liter

Number of Stable Isotopes: 0 (View all isotope data)

Ionization Energy: 10.745 eV

Oxidation States: 0

Electron Shell Configuration:


2s2   2p6

3s2   3p6   3d10

4s2   4p6   4d10   4f14

5s2   5p6   5d10

6s2   6p6

Citation and linking information

For questions about this page, please contact Steve Gagnon.