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There are several different reasons argon is used in particular applications:

An inert gas is needed. In particular, argon is the cheapest alternative when 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 by product of the production of liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen from a cryogenic air separation unit, 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 by far, since it has a much higher concentration in the atmosphere. The bulk of argon applications arise simply because it is inert and relatively cheap.

Industrial processes

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 various 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 an asphyxiant in the poultry industry, either for mass culling following disease outbreaks, or as a means of slaughter more humane than the electric bath. Argon’s relatively high density causes it to remain close to the ground during gassing. 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 sometimes used for extinguishing fires where damage to equipment is to be avoided.

Scientific research

Argon is used, primarily in liquid form, as the target for direct dark matter searches. The interaction of a hypothetical WIMP particle with the argon nucleus produces scintillation light that is then detected by photomultiplier tubes. Two-phase detectors also use argon gas to detect the ionized electrons produced during the WIMP-nucleus scattering. As with most other liquefied noble gases, argon has a high scintillation light yield (~ 51 photons / keV), is transparent to its own scintillation light, and is relatively easy to purify.

Compared to xenon, argon is cheaper and has a distinct scintillation time profile which allows the separation of electronic recoils from nuclear recoils. On the other hand, its intrinsic gamma-ray background is larger due to 39Ar contamination, unless one uses underground argon sources with a low level of radioactivity. Dark matter detectors currently operating with liquid argon include WArP, ArDM, micro Clean and DEAP-I.


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 of E938). Aerial oxidation, hydrolysis, and other chemical reactions which degrade the products are retarded or prevented entirely.

Bottles of high-purity chemicals and certain pharmaceutical products are available in sealed bottles or ampoules packed in argon. In wine making, argon is used to top-off barrels to avoid the aerial oxidation of ethanol to acetic acid during the ageing process.

Argon is also available in aerosol-type cans, which may be used to preserve compounds such as varnish, polyurethane, paint, etc. for storage after opening.

Since 2002, the American National Archives stores important national documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution within argon-filled cases to retard their degradation. Using argon reduces gas leakage, compared with the helium used in the preceding five decades.

Laboratory equipment

Argon may be used as the inert gas within Schlenk lines and glove boxes The use of argon over comparatively less expensive nitrogen is preferred where nitrogen may react with the experimental reagents or apparatus.

Argon may be used as the carrier gas in gas chromatography and in electro spray ionization mass spectrometry; it is the gas of choice for the plasma used in ICP spectroscopy. Argon is preferred for the sputter coating of specimens for scanning electron microscopy. Argon gas is also commonly used for sputter deposition of thin films as in microelectronics and for wafer cleaning in micro fabrication

Medical use

Cryosurgery procedures such as cryoablation use liquefied 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 electro surgery 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. Blue argon lasers are used in surgery to weld arteries, destroy tumours, and to correct eye defects. It has also been used experimentally to replace nitrogen in the breathing or decompression mix, to speed the elimination of dissolved nitrogen from the blood.


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 argon provide blue light. Argon is also used for the creation of blue and green laser light.


Although argon is non-toxic, it is 38% denser than air and is therefore considered a dangerous asphyxiant in closed areas. It is also difficult to detect because it is colourless, odourless, 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.

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Posted 2018/02/22 by Stelios in Education

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