All About Argon

Argon is an inert gas that is both colorless and odorless and that is grouped in the Noble gases.  Argon acquired its name from the Greek word for “lazy,” as a result of its characteristic of having little reactivity during the process of forming compounds. This gas is most commonly used in welding and likewise found frequently in fluorescent lighting.

According to Chemicool, a vast amount of the argon on Earth is the isotope argon-40, which is generated from the radioactive decay of potassium-40. However, argon in space is developed from stars, through a process in which two hydrogen nuclei fuse with silicon-32, resulting in the isotope argon-36.

Argon, while inert, is not limited. Contrarily, argon comprises around 0.9 percent of the atmosphere on earth. According to calculations by Chemicool, this signifies that there exists around 65 million metric tons of argon in the atmosphere, and that quantity continues to grow as a result of the decay of potassium-40.

To detail a few of its properties, Argon (Ar) has the atomic number 18 and an atomic weight of 39.948. At room temperature, Argon is a gas.

Argon was first discovered in 1785 when English scientist Henry Cavendish discovered a fraction of air that seemed especially inert. At first, Cavendish could not determine what this air was. This remained undetermined until over one hundred years later, when two men, Lord Rayleigh and Scottish chemist William Ramsey could accurately identify and explain the gas, eventually earning themselves the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this discovery. Not only this, but studying argon’s elemental properties also eventually led to Ramsey discovering helium, neon, krypton, and xenon.

Due to its inertness, argon is often employed in industrial jobs that call for a non-reactive atmosphere. Additionally, argon works well as an effective insulator, thus it is frequently used to keep divers warm divers during deep-sea diving. Argon is also employed in historical preservation and is pumped around important documents such as the Magna Carta and a world map that dates back all the way to 1507. Unlike oxygen and similar reactive elements, the argon preserves the paper and ink on these fragile documents.

In addition, there are several lesser-known utilizations for argon. For example, argon is used in neon lights that shine blue, since neon itself emanates an orange-red color. Likewise, argon is often employed in laser technology, including the lasers used in vision correction surgeries such as LASIK and PRK procedures. Argon has even been used to catch contaminated groundwater in certain locations in the United States. In this circumstance, argon and other noble gases were injected into wells where they mixed with methane.

At the current time, there is a substantial amount of research being done on argon to find additional potential uses of the gas. For example, it is currently being considered as a future alternative to the high-priced gas xenon and its role in treatment of brain injuries. Additionally, certain experiments point to the possibility that argon could at some point be employed to help brain injuries that have occurred a result of oxygen deprivation or other traumatic incidents. A review published in the Medical Gas Research journal discovered that in a significant amount of instances, treating injuries with argon far lessen the death of brain cells. Researchers are not yet clear about why argon impacts brain cells in this manner. Until now, argon has been employed in this research by either being directly mixed with cells in a culture dish or administered mixed with oxygen in a facemask for animal studies. As argon research moves forward, it is growing increasingly likely that human trials will start eventually. However, there appear to be risks associated with argon treatment, and because of this more research must be conducted until this practice can be applied.

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