Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

A letter about ‘Neon behind the signs’

Editor’s note: Earlier this year our ‘In your element’ section featured an article about neon written by Felice Grandinetti from the University of Tuscia (you can also find a write-up here by yours truly). We recently received a letter from Roald Hoffmann from Cornell University, which we are publishing here on the blog, with a reply from Felice Grandinetti. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section below.


To the Editor:

Felice Grandinetti’s comment on the singularity of supremely inert Ne, and his suggestion of having He head group 2 of Mendeleyev’s Table are on the mark1. But he should have mentioned the people who suggested that before him — Henry Bent2 and Eric Scerri3 have argued over the years for this placement. And Wojciech Grochala likewise, supporting his argument with detailed quantum mechanical calculations on diverse He and Ne containing molecules4,5. Their well-thought-through arguments deserve reference.

Roald Hoffmann, Cornell University


1. Grandinetti, F. Nature Chem. 5, 438 (2013). [Link]

2. Bent, H. New Ideas in Chemistry from Fresh Energy for the Periodic Law (AuthorHouse, 2006). [Link]

3. Scerri, E. R. The Periodic Table: Its Story and Its Significance (Oxford University Press, 2007). [Link]

4. Grochala, W. Pol. J. Chem. 83, 87–122 (2009). [Link to journal website]

5. Grochala, W. Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 14, 14860–14868 (2012). [Link]


Felice Grandinetti replies:

In reply to the letter by Roald Hoffmann:

My essay on neon chemistry intended to be an entertaining recognition of salient facts, systems, and concepts. The supreme inertness of Ne and the actual position of He in the periodic table are, in particular, “hot” topics, well highlighted before me by the scientists mentioned by Roald Hoffmann in his comment. I at present share the suggestion that neon is the most inert element, based also on my own experience in the theoretical investigation of noble gas compounds. The competition between He and Ne as the most inert element certainly invites further investigation, and I hope that this blog may be the place for future debate.

Felice Grandinetti, University of Tuscia


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    Eric Scerri said:

    I would just like to add that in my more recent “A Very Short Introduction to the Periodic Table, OUP, 2011, I argue that we do not yet have enough evidence/knowledge to settle the question of the placement of He in the periodic table. I also claim that the placement of H is equally problematical.