AskDefine | Define argon

Dictionary Definition

argon n : a colorless and odorless inert gas; one of the six inert gases; comprises approximately 1% of the earth's atmosphere [syn: Ar, atomic number 18]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. a chemical element (symbol Ar) with an atomic number of 18.


a chemical element


External links

For etymology and more information refer to: (A lot of the translations were taken from that site with permission from the author)



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  • /ˈɒrgon/|lang=hu


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Extensive Definition

This article pertains to the chemical element. For other uses, see argon (disambiguation).
Argon () is a chemical element designated by the symbol Ar. Argon has atomic number 18 and is the third element in group 18 of the periodic table (noble gases). Argon is present in the Earth's atmosphere at 0.93%, making it the most abundant noble gas on Earth. Its full outer shell makes argon stable and resistant to bonding with other elements. Its triple point temperature of 83.8058 K is a defining fixed point in the International Temperature Scale of 1990.


Argon has approximately the same solubility in water as oxygen gas and is 2.5 times more soluble in water than nitrogen gas. Argon is colorless, odorless, tasteless and nontoxic in both its liquid and gaseous forms. Argon is inert under most conditions and forms no confirmed stable compounds at room temperature.
Although argon is a noble gas, it has been found to have the capability of forming some compounds. For example, the creation of argon hydrofluoride (HArF), a metastable compound of argon with fluorine and hydrogen, was reported by researchers at the University of Helsinki in 2000. Although the neutral ground-state chemical compounds of argon are presently limited to HArF, argon can form clathrates with water when atoms of it are trapped in a lattice of the water molecules. Also argon-containing ions and excited state complexes, such as ArH+ and ArF, respectively, are known to exist. Theoretical calculations have shown several argon compounds that should be stable but for which no synthesis routes are currently known.


Argon (Greek meaning "inactive," in reference to its chemical inactivity) was suspected to be present in air by Henry Cavendish in 1785 but was not discovered until 1894 by Lord Rayleigh and Sir William Ramsay in Scotland in an experiment in which they removed all of the oxygen and nitrogen from a sample of air. They had determined that nitrogen produced from chemical compounds was one-half percent lighter than nitrogen from the atmosphere. The difference seemed insignificant, but it was important enough to attract their attention for many months. They concluded that there was another gas in the air mixed in with the nitrogen. Argon was also encountered in 1882 through independent research of H.F. Newall and W.N. Hartley. Each observed new lines in the color spectrum of air but were unable to identify the element responsible for the lines. Argon became the first member of the noble gases to be discovered. The symbol for argon is now Ar, but up until 1957 it was A.


Argon constitutes 0.934% by volume and 1.29% by mass of the Earth's atmosphere, and air is the primary raw material used by industry to produce purified argon products. Argon is isolated from air by fractionation, most commonly by cryogenic fractional distillation, a process that also produces purified nitrogen, oxygen, neon, krypton and xenon.
The Martian atmosphere in contrast contains 1.6% of argon-40 and 5 ppm of argon-36. The Mariner spaceprobe fly-by of the planet Mercury in 1973 found that Mercury has a very thin atmosphere with 70% argon, believed to result from releases of the gas as a decay product from radioactive materials on the planet. In 2005, the Huygens probe also discovered the presence of argon-40 on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.


The main isotopes of argon found on Earth are 40Ar (99.6%), 36Ar (0.34%), and 38Ar (0.06%). Naturally occurring 40K with a half-life of 1.25 years, decays to stable 40Ar (11.2%) by electron capture and positron emission, and also to stable 40Ca (88.8%) via beta decay. These properties and ratios are used to determine the age of rocks.
In the Earth's atmosphere, 39Ar is made by cosmic ray activity, primarily with 40Ar. In the subsurface environment, it is also produced through neutron capture by 39K or alpha emission by calcium. 37Ar is created from the decay of 40Ca as a result of subsurface nuclear explosions. It has a half-life of 35 days. It is stable up to 40 kelvins (−233 °C).
The discovery of argon difluoride (ArF2) was announced in 2003, but this is unconfirmed and most probably incorrect.
See also:-Ar



Argon is produced industrially by the partial distillation of liquid air, a process that separates liquid nitrogen, which boils at 77.3K, from argon, which boils at 87.3 K and oxygen, which boils only at 90.2 K. About 700 000 tons of argon are produced worldwide every year.

In radioactive decays

Argon-40, the most abundant isotope of argon, is produced by the decay of potassium-40 with a half-life of 1.26e+9 years by electron capture or positron emission.
Potassium-argon dating


There are several different reasons why argon is used in particular applications:
  • An inert gas is needed. In particular, argon is the cheapest alternative when diatomic nitrogen is not sufficiently inert.
  • Low thermal conductivity is required.
  • The electronic properties (ionization and/or the emission spectrum) are necessary.
Other noble gases would probably work as well in most of these applications, but argon is by far the cheapest. Argon is inexpensive since it is a byproduct of the production of liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen, both of which are used on a large industrial scale. The other noble gases (except helium) are produced this way as well, but argon is the most plentiful since it has the highest concentration in the atmosphere. The bulk of argon applications arise simply because it is inert and relatively cheap. Argon is used:
  • As a fill gas in incandescent lighting, because argon will not react with the filament of light bulbs even at high temperatures.
  • As an inert gas shield in many forms of welding, including metal inert gas welding and tungsten inert gas welding. For metal inert gas welding Argon is often mixed with CO2.
  • For extinguishing fires where damage to equipment is to be avoided (see photo).
  • As the gas of choice for the plasma used in ICP spectroscopy.
  • As a non-reactive blanket in the processing of titanium and other reactive elements.
  • As a protective atmosphere for growing silicon and germanium crystals, and in partial pressure heat treat furnaces.
  • By museum conservators to protect old materials or documents, which are prone to gradual oxidation in the presence of air.
  • To keep open bottles of wine from oxidizing, and in a number of dispensing units and keeper cap systems.
  • In winemaking to top off barrels, displacing oxygen and thus preventing the wine from turning to vinegar during the aging process.
  • In the pharmaceutical industry to top off bottles of intravenous drug preparations (for example intravenous paracetamol), again displacing oxygen and therefore prolonging the drug's shelf-life.
  • Used to cool the seeker head of the US Air Force version of the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile. The gas is stored at high pressure, and the expansion of the gas cools the seeker.
  • As an atmosphere in graphite electric furnaces, to keep graphite from oxidizing.
The next most common reason for using argon is its low thermal conductivity. It is used for thermal insulation in energy efficient windows. Argon is also used in technical scuba diving to inflate a dry suit, because it is inert and has low thermal conductivity. It is also used to replace nitrogen in the breathing or decompression mix, to reduce the onset of nitrogen narcosis, or to speed the elimination of dissolved nitrogen from the blood. See Argox (scuba).
Argon is also used for the specific way it ionizes and emits light. It is used in plasma globes and calorimetry in experimental particle physics. Blue argon lasers are used in surgery to weld arteries, destroy tumors, and to correct eye defects. In microelectronics, argon ions are used for sputtering.
Finally, there are a number of miscellaneous uses. Argon-39, with a half life of 269 years, has been used for a number of applications, primarily ice core and ground water dating. Also, potassium-argon dating is used in dating igneous rocks.
Cryosurgery procedures such as cryoablation use liquified argon to destroy cancer cells. In surgery it is used in a procedure called "argon enhanced coagulation" which is a form of argon plasma beam electrosurgery. The procedure carries a risk of producing gas embolism in the patient and has resulted in the death of one person via this type of accident.

Potential hazards

Although Argon is non-toxic, it does not satisfy the body's need for oxygen and is a simple asphyxiant, and, in confined spaces, is known to result in death due to asphyxiation. A recent multiple fatality in Florida (USA) highlights the dangers of Argon tank leakage in confined spaces, and, emphasizes the need for its proper use, storage and handling.


Further reading

argon in Afrikaans: Argon
argon in Arabic: أرغون (عنصر)
argon in Asturian: Argón
argon in Azerbaijani: Arqon
argon in Bengali: আর্গন
argon in Belarusian: Аргон
argon in Bosnian: Argon
argon in Bulgarian: Аргон
argon in Catalan: Argó
argon in Chuvash: Аргон
argon in Czech: Argon
argon in Corsican: Argone
argon in Welsh: Argon
argon in Danish: Argon
argon in German: Argon
argon in Estonian: Argoon
argon in Modern Greek (1453-): Αργό
argon in Spanish: Argón
argon in Esperanto: Argono
argon in Basque: Argon
argon in Persian: آرگون
argon in French: Argon
argon in Friulian: Argon
argon in Manx: Argon
argon in Galician: Argon
argon in Korean: 아르곤
argon in Armenian: Արգոն
argon in Hindi: आर्गन
argon in Croatian: Argon
argon in Ido: Argono
argon in Indonesian: Argon
argon in Icelandic: Argon
argon in Italian: Argon
argon in Hebrew: ארגון (יסוד)
argon in Javanese: Argon
argon in Swahili (macrolanguage): Arigoni
argon in Haitian: Agon
argon in Latin: Argon
argon in Latvian: Argons
argon in Luxembourgish: Argon
argon in Lithuanian: Argonas
argon in Limburgan: Argon
argon in Lojban: laznynavni
argon in Hungarian: Argon
argon in Macedonian: Аргон
argon in Malayalam: ആര്‍ഗണ്‍
argon in Maori: Argon
argon in Malay (macrolanguage): Argon
argon in Dutch: Argon
argon in Japanese: アルゴン
argon in Norwegian: Argon
argon in Norwegian Nynorsk: Argon
argon in Occitan (post 1500): Argon
argon in Uzbek: Argon
argon in Low German: Argon
argon in Polish: Argon
argon in Portuguese: Árgon
argon in Romanian: Argon
argon in Quechua: Argun
argon in Russian: Аргон
argon in Albanian: Argoni
argon in Sicilian: Argon
argon in Simple English: Argon
argon in Slovak: Argón
argon in Slovenian: Argon
argon in Serbian: Аргон
argon in Serbo-Croatian: Argon
argon in Saterfriesisch: Argon
argon in Finnish: Argon
argon in Swedish: Argon
argon in Thai: อาร์กอน
argon in Vietnamese: Agon
argon in Turkish: Argon
argon in Ukrainian: Аргон
argon in Chinese: 氩
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