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Noble gases were considered to be inert until compounds that include them, such as xenon trioxide (as an example) were found.

My question is, what natural conditions allow the formation of noble gas compounds?

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  • $\begingroup$ Natural? As in compounds you could find on Earth outside of a lab? I find that highly unlikely (other than clathrates), because most noble gas compounds are derived from the fluorides after direct exposure to fluorine, either with heating or light. Molecular fluorine is never found free because it is far too reactive, and it would be promptly consumed by anything else in the vicinity of the noble gas. The noble gas compounds themselves would be highly unstable and prone to decomposition. The only possibility I can think of is in extremely pressurized environments, perhaps in the mantle. $\endgroup$ – Nicolau Saker Neto Jan 10 '14 at 21:54
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    $\begingroup$ I bet that electrical discharges in evacuated metal tubes, filled with noble gases and halogenes don't count as natural conditions, although the compounds formed were happily emitting in the uv :D $\endgroup$ – Klaus-Dieter Warzecha Jan 11 '14 at 11:13
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    $\begingroup$ This is just thinking out loud, but could this type of reaction occur with lightning? @KlausWarzecha $\endgroup$ – user4076 Jan 11 '14 at 11:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Amaterasu Honestly, I really don't know whether a situation like in an excimer laser might happen in the atmosphere under the extreme conditions of a lightning. I wouldn't even dare to speculate on that. $\endgroup$ – Klaus-Dieter Warzecha Jan 11 '14 at 11:21
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    $\begingroup$ Here is a video about xenon in sand (theory) youtube.com/watch?v=fZ7_CyLpwPc $\endgroup$ – user2117 Jan 12 '14 at 10:08
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As noticed in the comments, there are probably no natural conditions that would allow formation of noble gas compounds; although it should be noted that definition of 'natural' conditions should be specified. Lightning bolts surely carry enough energy to force such a reaction, but it is impossible for them to meet right mixture of gases, due to scarcity of both noble gases and super-strong oxidants and abundance of other substrates; as noted in comments (again), substrate able to create a compound with noble gas will create it with everything else first, and noble gas last.

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