Argon (Ar) is a chemical element belonging to the p-block of the periodic table.
Ar is a colorless, odorless, and inert gas at room temperature.
The name of the gas has been derived from the Greek word ‘argos’ which means idle or lazy.
Argon was discovered in 1894 by Lord Rayleigh and Sir William Ramsay. The discovery was late despite the abundance of the gas due to its inert behavior.
We are often under a misconception that O2, N2, and CO2 are the three most abundant gases, but Ar is the 3rd most prevalent gas in the atmosphere, accounting for ~1 % of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Since radioactive K-40 decays into Ar, the levels of argon gas have progressively grown since the formation of the Earth. The distillation of liquid air commercially produces Argon.
Almost 95% of the Argon in the atmosphere is radiogenic argon-40, whereas the most common isotope of Argon in space is argon-36.
Sometimes, Ar appears purple in color because of the photon emitted due to subsequent excitation and de-excitation of valence electron.
Even though Argon is a gas, it may form specific compounds under extreme conditions. The solubility of Argon in water is equal to that of oxygen. It possesses poor thermal conductivity.
The chemical symbol for Argon is Ar.
It is a very useful gas and has applications in diverse fields.
In this article, we will study the uses of Argon and understand the reason for the same.
|Properties of Argon gas
|39.98 g mol-1
|0.001633 g cm-3
|1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6
Uses of Argon Gas
1. Wine Storage
Argon is used in the food and beverage industry due to its inert nature.
It is often added to wine containers as it is denser than air and rests above the liquid to protect it from oxidation and souring.
2. Storage of Chip’s Packet
Argon can be flushed into chips packets instead of nitrogen for preserving it. The Argon molecule’s size and density make it perfect for inerting.
Argon is eight times more efficient than nitrogen in lipids and water because it allows oxygen to be extracted when it solubilizes.
This is due to its polarity and ionization potential resemblance to oxygen, an excellent inhibitor of respiratory enzymes.
3. Argon Plasma Torch
Toxic metal dust is prevented from leaking into the environment by certain smelters using an argon plasma torch.
Hazardous dust particles passing through the torch are converted into a glob of molten scrap when the atoms of Argon are electrically charged to a temperature of 10,000°C.
4. Shield Gas in Welding Process
Very high temperatures are required for metal welding, and in the process, the metal reacts with elements present in the air, which leads to the formation of undesired products.
To tackle this issue, inert gases like Argon are utilized to assist the stabilization of the process of welding and avoid contamination.
Argon is one of the most often utilized shielding gases in welding and is regularly used as a foundation for specific mixtures.
Ar is frequently blended with a tiny amount of CO2 because it gives consistent quality and a cleaner finish to cut carbon steel.
Since Argon has a poor heat conductivity, welding using pure Argon is done when working with thinner metals such as Al, Ti, and Mg.
5. 3D Printing
The 3D printer needs an inert environment. Argon gas provides the same and prevents the undesired reactions to maintain the purity of components.
The 3D printing machine’s inert atmosphere keeps the oxygen concentration low, reducing oxidization in the created object.
6. Heat Treatment
It is the technique of heating metal so that the metal does not reach the molten state. The metal is then cooled in a regulated manner for choosing specific mechanical qualities.
Argon creates an inert environment and is typically provided at a dew point of less than -75°F and an oxygen level of less than 20 ppm.
Some heat treatment techniques that can benefit from an Ar atmosphere are annealing, brazing, and sintering.
7. Titanium Fabrication
Ti is a strong and light metal that is utilized in various sectors. Titanium is a desirable commodity because it is corrosion resistant and has a high strength-to-density ratio.
The molten metallic Ti must be exposed to an atmosphere rich in argon gas in the last stage of the titanium production process to prevent it from interacting with O2, CO2, and other gases in the environment while being created.
A thin titanium oxide layer is formed over the metal even in an argon-rich atmosphere. This thin layer prevents further oxidation. Ti becomes suitable for general usage once it has been produced and cooled.
8. Steel Manufacturing
Stainless steel and other special alloys like silicon steel generally use argon oxygen decarburization (AOD). The dilution by argon gas prevents undesired oxidation of essential elements.
9. Tyres of Luxury Cars
Argon gas is used in the tires of expensive cars. The gas protects the rubber from oxygen attack and assures reduced tire noise while the car is going at high speeds.
10. Neon Lights
Noble gases (Ar, Ne, and Kr) are used to produce neon lights. When electricity travels through Ar gas, it quickly excites the valence electrons, causing them to leap to a higher energy level. When the electron returns to its normal energy level, it emits a photon.
Argon is also used for filling incandescent light bulbs to prevent tungsten filament evaporation and extend bulb life.
11. Growing Crystals
Argon is employed in the formation of silicon and germanium crystals. These crystals must be grown in a clean atmosphere.
It must be ensured that no other elements combine with silicon/germanium. Since silicon/germanium does not react with Argon, Argon ensures an inert atmosphere.
Argon is used in liquid form for calorimetry in a particle physics experiment.
This procedure uses Ar to generate a severe cold atmosphere to eliminate cancer cells and aberrant tissue.
It is a localized therapy, which means it is focused on a specific body area. Thus, argon gas is used for the treatment of cancer as well.
14. Argon Ion Laser
An ion laser is a gas laser that uses ionized gas as the active medium. The electrical pumping approach is utilized to achieve population inversion in an ion laser.
This type of laser is different as a noble gas is used as an active medium. The laser uses the electronic transitions in an ionized Ar- atom (Ar+).
These lasers are commonly employed in a variety of medical procedures.
The argon-ion laser is utilized in ophthalmic procedures like treating glaucoma and other diabetic eye disorders by using retinal phototherapy due to its accuracy in targeting the region.
It is also used in dermatology to treat ulcers, lesions, and polyps. It is also employed in the process of photocoagulation.
15. Radioisotope Dating
Dating is used to determine the age of rocks or any other object. It is referred to as radioisotope dating when a radioactive isotope of an element is used to determine the time of origin.
Argon dating is used for finding the age of rocks by observing the ratio of radioactive Ar to radioactive K (Potassium).
Argon dating is a radioisotopic technique that relies on the natural radioactive decay of an isotope of K, 40-K, at an already known rate to create an isotope of Argon, 40-Ar.
This approach is one of the most flexible and accurate radioisotopic dating techniques used for volcanic materials.
Argon-argon dating is more accurate than Argon-Potassium dating. Argon-39 is also commonly used for groundwater dating and ice core.
16. Document Preservation
The paper often turns yellow due to the oxidation of cellulose. Due to similar reasons, documents can get destroyed over a long period.
Argon gas provides an inert atmosphere and prevents documents from reacting with other gases.
17. Home Fixtures
Argon is also utilized as a thermal insulator in energy-saving windows. It is primarily utilized in double-glazed windows when the area between the panes is filled with Argon.
18. Scuba Diving
Divers need to wear a dry suit to protect themselves from the harsh external conditions due to extremely cold or contaminated water. A dry suit is waterproof and provides thermal insulation.
Argon gas is used in dry suits because it provides better insulation than regular air. Argon is relatively denser and does not compress as much as air. Argon’s thermal conductivity is 68% of air.
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Argon is mostly used wherever the inert atmosphere is required. All inert gases can replace Ar, but Ar is particularly appealing due to its low cost and abundance. This gas makes up about 1% of the atmosphere and can be produced by fractional distillation of air.