Argon was discovered by a Scottish chemist, Sir William Ramsay and an English chemist, Lord Rayleigh in 1894. However, an English scientist, Henry Cavendish identified the presence of argon 200 years before its discovery when he found a small amount of gas left behind while separating nitrogen and oxygen from air. Although he anticipated the presence of another element in the air, he was unable to confirm that. Ramsay repeated Cavendish's experiment in 1894 and analyzed the left over unknown gas using spectroscopy. Meanwhile, Rayleigh was also performing the same experiment, almost at the same time. Both the scientists together revealed the unidentified gas and named it Argon.
||Gas at 298 K
|CAS Registry ID
|Group in periodic table
|Period in periodic table
|Block in periodic table
||83.80 K (-189.35°C or -308.83°F)
||87.30 K (-185.85°C or -302.53°F)
|Phase at room temperature
Argon accounts for nearly 0.93% of the atmosphere and the concentration of argon in the Earth's crust is around 4 ppm.
Argon has 24 known isotopes with mass numbers from 30Ar to 53Ar. Of these, three isotopes, 36Ar, 38Ar, and 40Ar are stable and occur naturally. There are also six radioactive isotopes of Argon.
Argon is industrially extracted from liquid air in a cryogenic air separation unit by means of fractional distillation. When nitrogen gas present in the atmosphere is heated using hot calcium or magnesium, a nitride is formed leaving behind small amount of argon as an impurity. It can also be obtained as a by-product while purifying natural gas.
The mixing of argon with air can cause super-saturation that in turn increases the risk of suffocation in a confined environment. Excessive inhalation of argon can result in loss of consciousness, vomiting, nausea, dizziness and even death if left untreated. In addition, exposure to rapidly expanding argon gas or cryogenic liquid can cause frostbite or burns.
The key properties of argon are listed below:
- It is an odorless, tasteless, colorless, inert gas
- It is chemically inactive and hence it tends to form weak structures at extreme conditions
- It exists as charged ion molecules.
The major applications of argon include the following:
- Electric lamps as filler gas
- Welding purpose
- Discharge tubes
- Argon lasers and argon-dye lasers