What is argon?

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Argon is the most abundant noble gas present in the Earth. About 1% of the Earth’s atmosphere is composed of Argon. In terms of behavior, Argon is considered very stable but not totally inert. This gaseous chemical has no color and no odor and/or taste. It is also considered safe and non-toxic making it very useful. When exposed to an electric field, Argon will display a violet and/or lilac glow. With this kind of colorful glow, Argon is commonly grouped with other glowing gases like neon and helium.

Being an inert gas, scientists in the past were not able to take advantage of Argon’s properties. It was initially believed that Argon is not able to combine well with other chemicals when in fact it is very stable enough when mixed with other gases. First discovered in 1894, Argon was isolated from nitrogen air. With its low reactivity, Sir William Ramsay and Lord Rayleigh named the newly discovered Argon in reference to the Greek word “argos” which literally means “lazy one”.

Argon is commonly used in the manufacture of light bulbs. It can be extracted and isolated through a process called fractional distillation. In this process, air is cooled at the beginning and this will result to liquefaction. Heat will then be introduced to allow the separation of gas and the corresponding precipitation. Aside from lighting, Argon is also widely used in welding like gas metal arc welding because of its low reactivity and high stability when combined with other chemicals. The same low reactivity of Argon is also made use in the growing of silicon crystals. Some fire extinguishers may also contain Argon because it can help put out fires without causing any damage to the equipment. Being a non-toxic gas, Argon is also commonly used as alternatives for oxygen and nitrogen for various industrial uses.