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ARGON 1 of 2

Argon is a chemical element with symbol Ar and atomic number 18. It is in group 18 (noble gases) of the periodic table. Argon is the third most common gas in the Earth’s atmosphere, at 0.93% (9,300 ppm), making it approximately 23.8 times as abundant as next most common atmospheric gas, carbon dioxide (390 ppm), and more than 500 times as abundant as the next most common noble gas, neon (18 ppm). Nearly all of this argon is radiogenic argon-40 derived from the decay of potassium-40 in the Earth’s crust. In the universe, argon-36 is by far the most common argon isotope, being the preferred argon isotope produced by stellar nucleosynthesis in supernovas.


The name “argon” is derived from the Greek word αργον meaning “lazy” or “the inactive one”, a reference to the fact that the element undergoes almost no chemical reactions. The complete octet (eight electrons) in the outer atomic 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 is produced 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 non-reactive substances become reactive; for example, an argon atmosphere is used in graphite electric furnaces to prevent the graphite from burning. Argon gas also has uses in incandescent and fluorescent lighting, and other types of gas discharge tubes. Argon makes a distinctive blue-green gas laser.



Argon has approximately the same solubility in water as oxygen, and is 2.5 times more soluble in water than nitrogen. Argon is colourless, odourless, and non-toxic as a solid, liquid, and gas. Argon is chemically 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 fluorohydride (HArF), a marginally stable 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. Argon-containing ions and excited state complexes, such as ArH+ and ArF, respectively, are known to exist. Theoretical calculations have predicted several argon compounds that should be stable, but for which no synthesis routes are currently known.



Argon (αργος, Greek meaning “inactive”, in reference to its chemical inactivity) was suspected to be present in air by Henry Cavendish in 1785 but was not isolated until 1894 by Lord Rayleigh and Sir William Ramsay in Scotland in an experiment in which they removed all of the oxygen, carbon dioxide, water and nitrogen from a sample of clean 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 colour 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 1.28% 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 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 1.25×109 years, decays to stable 40Ar (11.2%) by electron capture or positron emission, and also to stable 40Ca (88.8%) via beta decay. These properties and ratios are used to determine the age of rocks by the method of K-Ar dating.


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 neutron spallation of 40Ca as a result of subsurface nuclear explosions. It has a half-life of 35 days.


Argon is notable in that its isotopic composition varies greatly between different locations in the solar system. 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, in contrast, is dominated by the alpha process nuclide, 36Ar. Correspondingly, solar argon contains 84.6% 36Ar based on solar wind measurements.

The predominance of radiogenic 40Ar is responsible for the fact that the standard atomic weight of terrestrial argon is greater than that of the next element, potassium. This was puzzling at the time when argon was discovered, since Mendeleev had placed the elements in his periodic table in order of atomic weight, although the inertness of argon implies that it must be placed before the reactive alkali metal potassium. Henry Moseley later solved this problem by showing that the periodic table is actually arranged in order of atomic number.


The much greater atmospheric abundance of argon relative to the other noble gases is also due to the presence of radiogenic 40Ar. Primordial 36Ar has an abundance of only 31.5 ppmv (= 9340 ppmv x 0.337%), comparable to that of neon (18.18 ppmv).


The Martian atmosphere contains 1.6% of 40Ar and 5 ppm of 36Ar. The Mariner space probe 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 40Ar on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.



Argon’s complete octet of electrons indicates full s and p sub shells This full outer energy level makes argon very stable and extremely resistant to bonding with other elements. Before 1962, argon and the other noble gases were considered to be chemically inert and unable to form compounds; however, compounds of the heavier noble gases have since been synthesized. In August 2000, the first argon compound was formed by researchers at the University of Helsinki. By shining ultraviolet light onto frozen argon containing a small amount of hydrogen fluoride with caesium iodide, argon fluorohydride (HArF) was formed. It is stable up to 40 kelvin (−233 °C). The metastable ArCF2+ 2 dication, which is valence isoelectronic with carbonyl fluoride, was observed in 2010.




Argon is produced 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.


In radioactive decays

40Ar, the most abundant isotope of argon, is produced by the decay of 40K with a half-life of 1.25×109 years by electron capture or positron emission. Because of this, it is used in potassium-argon dating to determine the age of rocks.


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Posted 2018/02/22 by Stelios in Education

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