Nearly all of the argon in Earth's atmosphere is radiogenic argon-40, derived from the decay of potassium-40 in Earth's crust. In the universe, argon-36 is by far the most common argon isotope, as it is the most easily produced by stellar nucleosynthesis in supernovas.
Argon is extracted industrially by the fractional distillation of liquid air. Argon is mostly used as an inert shielding gas in welding and other high-temperature industrial processes where ordinarily unreactive substances become reactive; for example, an argon atmosphere is used in graphite electric furnaces to prevent the graphite from burning. Argon is also used in incandescent, fluorescent lighting, and other gas-discharge tubes. Argon makes a distinctive blue-green gas laser. Argon is also used in fluorescent glow starters.
Argon was first isolated from air in 1894 by Lord Rayleigh and Sir William Ramsay at University College London by removing oxygen, carbon dioxide, water, and nitrogen from a sample of clean air. They first accomplished this by replicating an experiment of Henry Cavendish's. They trapped a mixture of atmospheric air with additional oxygen in a test-tube (A) upside-down over a large quantity of dilute alkali solution (B), which in Cavendish's original experiment was potassium hydroxide, and conveyed a current through wires insulated by U-shaped glass tubes (CC) which sealed around the platinum wire electrodes, leaving the ends of the wires (DD) exposed to the gas and insulated from the alkali solution. The arc was powered by a battery of five Grove cells and a Ruhmkorff coil of medium size. The alkali absorbed the oxides of nitrogen produced by the arc and also carbon dioxide. They operated the arc until no more reduction of volume of the gas could be seen for at least an hour or two and the spectral lines of nitrogen disappeared when the gas was examined. The remaining oxygen was reacted with alkaline pyrogallate to leave behind an apparently non-reactive gas which they called argon.
Argon constitutes 0.934% by volume and 1.288% by mass of Earth's atmosphere. Air is the primary industrial source of 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. Earth's crust and seawater contain 1.2 ppm and 0.45 ppm of argon, respectively.
Between locations in the Solar System, the isotopic composition of argon varies greatly. Where the major source of argon is the decay of 40K in rocks, 40Ar will be the dominant isotope, as it is on Earth. Argon produced directly by stellar nucleosynthesis is dominated by the alpha-process nuclide 36Ar. Correspondingly, solar argon contains 84.6% 36Ar (according to solar wind measurements), and the ratio of the three isotopes 36Ar : 38Ar : 40Ar in the atmospheres of the outer planets is 8400 : 1600 : 1. This contrasts with the low abundance of primordial 36Ar in Earth's atmosphere, which is only 31.5 ppmv (= 9340 ppmv 0.337%), comparable with that of neon (18.18 ppmv) on Earth and with interplanetary gasses, measured by probes.
The predominance of radiogenic 40Ar is the reason the standard atomic weight of terrestrial argon is greater than that of the next element, potassium, a fact that was puzzling when argon was discovered. Mendeleev positioned the elements on his periodic table in order of atomic weight, but the inertness of argon suggested a placement before the reactive alkali metal. Henry Moseley later solved this problem by showing that the periodic table is actually arranged in order of atomic number (see History of the periodic table).
Solid argon hydride (Ar(H2)2) has the same crystal structure as the MgZn2 Laves phase. It forms at pressures between 4.3 and 220 GPa, though Raman measurements suggest that the H2 molecules in Ar(H2)2 dissociate above 175 GPa.
Argon is extracted industrially by the fractional distillation of liquid air in a cryogenic air separation unit; a process that separates liquid nitrogen, which boils at 77.3 K, from argon, which boils at 87.3 K, and liquid oxygen, which boils at 90.2 K. About 700,000 tonnes of argon are produced worldwide every year.
Other noble gases would be equally suitable for most of these applications, but argon is by far the cheapest. Argon is inexpensive, since it occurs naturally in air and is readily obtained as a byproduct of cryogenic air separation in the production of liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen: the primary constituents of air 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 by far. The bulk of argon applications arise simply because it is inert and relatively cheap.
Argon is used in some high-temperature industrial processes where ordinarily non-reactive substances become reactive. For example, an argon atmosphere is used in graphite electric furnaces to prevent the graphite from burning.
For some of these processes, the presence of nitrogen or oxygen gases might cause defects within the material. Argon is used in some types of arc welding such as gas metal arc welding and gas tungsten arc welding, as well as in the processing of titanium and other reactive elements. An argon atmosphere is also used for growing crystals of silicon and germanium.
Argon is used in the poultry industry to asphyxiate birds, either for mass culling following disease outbreaks, or as a means of slaughter more humane than electric stunning. Argon is denser than air and displaces oxygen close to the ground during inert gas asphyxiation. Its non-reactive nature makes it suitable in a food product, and since it replaces oxygen within the dead bird, argon also enhances shelf life.
Argon is used to displace oxygen- and moisture-containing air in packaging material to extend the shelf-lives of the contents (argon has the European food additive code E938). Aerial oxidation, hydrolysis, and other chemical reactions that degrade the products are retarded or prevented entirely. High-purity chemicals and pharmaceuticals are sometimes packed and sealed in argon.
In winemaking, argon is used in a variety of activities to provide a barrier against oxygen at the liquid surface, which can spoil wine by fueling both microbial metabolism (as with acetic acid bacteria) and standard redox chemistry.
Since 2002, the American National Archives stores important national documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution within argon-filled cases to inhibit their degradation. Argon is preferable to the helium that had been used in the preceding five decades, because helium gas escapes through the intermolecular pores in most containers and must be regularly replaced.
Cryosurgery procedures such as cryoablation use liquid argon to destroy tissue such as cancer cells. It is used in a procedure called "argon-enhanced coagulation", a form of argon plasma beam electrosurgery. The procedure carries a risk of producing gas embolism and has resulted in the death of at least one patient.
Incandescent lights are filled with argon, to preserve the filaments at high temperature from oxidation. It is used for the specific way it ionizes and emits light, such as in plasma globes and calorimetry in experimental particle physics. Gas-discharge lamps filled with pure argon provide lilac/violet light; with argon and some mercury, blue light. Argon is also used for blue and green argon-ion lasers.
Argon is used as a propellant in the development of the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR). Compressed argon gas is allowed to expand, to cool the seeker heads of some versions of the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile and other missiles that use cooled thermal seeker heads. The gas is stored at high pressure.
Argon has been used by athletes as a doping agent to simulate hypoxic conditions. In 2014, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) added argon and xenon to the list of prohibited substances and methods, although at this time there is no reliable test for abuse.
Although argon is non-toxic, it is 38% more dense than air and therefore considered a dangerous asphyxiant in closed areas. It is difficult to detect because it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. A 1994 incident, in which a man was asphyxiated after entering an argon-filled section of oil pipe under construction in Alaska, highlights the dangers of argon tank leakage in confined spaces and emphasizes the need for proper use, storage and handling.
This gas is isolated through liquid air fractionation since the atmosphere contains only 0.94% argon. The Martian atmosphere in contrast contains 1.6% of Ar-40 and 5 ppm Ar-36. World production exceeds 750.000 tonnes per year, the supply is virtually inexhaustible.
Argon does not react with the filament in a lightbulb even under high temperatures, so is used in lighting and in other cases where diatomic nitrogen is an unsuitable (semi-)inert gas. Argon is perticularly important for the metal industry, being used as an inert gas shield in arc welding and cutting. Other uses incude non-reactive blanket in the manufacture of titanium and other reactive elements and as a protective atmosphere for growing silicon and germanium crystals. Argon-39 has been used for a number of applications, primarily ice coring. It has also been used for ground water dating. Argon is also used in technical SCUBA diving to inflate the drysuit, due to its nonreactive, heat isolating effect. Argon as the gap between the panes of glass provides better insulation because it is a poorer conductor of heat than ordinary air. The most exotic use of argon is in the tyre of luxury cars.
The Branch Vein Occlusion Study is a multi-center, randomized, controlled clinical trial designed to answer several questions regarding the management of complications of branch vein occlusion. This report discusses the question, "Is argon laser photocoagulation useful in improving visual acuity in eyes with branch vein occlusion and macular edema reducing vision to 20/40 or worse?" One hundred thirty-nine eligible eyes were assigned randomly to either a treated or an untreated control group. Comparing treated patients to control patients (mean follow-up 3.1 years for all study eyes), the gain of at least two lines of visual acuity from baseline maintained for two consecutive visits was significantly greater in treated eyes (P = .00049, logrank test). Because of this improvement in visual acuity with argon laser photocoagulation of macular edema from branch vein occlusion, we recommend laser photocoagulation for patients with macular edema associated with branch vein occlusion who meet the eligibility criteria of this study. 041b061a72