Argon is the third most abundant gas in the Earth's atmosphere; preceded only by nitrogen and oxygen. While the credit of isolating argon goes to Lord Rayleigh and Sir William Ramsay―a feat they achieved in 1894, the probability of it being present in the atmosphere of the Earth was put forth by Henry Cavendish, a British scientist, back in 1875.
Argon Uses and Properties
When we talk about the different uses of argon, we need to take a note of the fact that these uses are basically attributed to the various properties of the element. The low thermal conductivity of argon, for instance, makes it an apt gas to inflate the dry suit in scuba diving. It is important to understand all these properties before moving on to its uses.
Argon is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas constituting a little less than 1 percent of the total atmosphere of the Earth. In the periodic table, it is designated 'Ar' as the symbol, while its atomic number is 18. Like helium, even argon is monatomic in nature. It is non-toxic in all three states, and has a density of 1.784 g/L. Its melting point is -308.83°F, while its boiling point is -302.53°F. It is usually produced by means of fractional distillation of liquid air.
And as for its uses,
- Argon is used as a protective covering for the filament in light bulbs and incandescent lamps. Its tendency to emit blue light makes it a popular component of fluorescent tubes and glow tubes.
- As far as its industrial use is concerned, it is used to create the inert atmosphere required for welding metals such as aluminum and stainless steel.
- Argon is also used in fire extinguishers, owing to its tendency of extinguishing fire without causing any harm to the equipment.
- In the semiconductor industry, it is used to create a protective environment for the development of silicon and germanium crystals.
- An ideal preservation agent, argon is also used to preserve old documents and other material of historical significance.
- In wine making, it is used to ensure that the bottles of wine are not subjected to oxidization when kept open.
- In scuba diving, argon is used to inflate dry suits owing to the fact that it has a low thermal conductivity.
- In a process referred to as Potassium-Argon Dating, it is used for dating ground water, ice cores, igneous rocks, etc.
- In the field of medicine, it is used in lasers meant to destroy tumors, weld arteries, correct the defects in eyes, etc.
The fact that argon is 25 percent denser than air can make it a bit dangerous; especially in closed environment, wherein it can trigger asphyxiation and eventually result in death of the individual.
All these applications of argon stress on the fact that it is a crucial component of various fields, including medical, electronics, industries, etc. Over a period, our dependency on this element has just increased, thus making it one of the most important chemical elements for mankind.