Argon is an inert (or “noble”) gas and is listed in the periodic table as "Ar." This noble gas was discovered in 1894 by Sir William Ramsay and Lord Rayleigh. Argon is manufactured by distilling the liquid air and is one of the most abundant gases (third most abundant) in the earth’s atmosphere. Argon is therefore inexpensive and environmentally friendly. It has multiple industrial and business uses.
Use in Manufacturing Industry
Pure argon as well as argon mixtures are used in “tungsten inert gas,” or TIG, welding and in casting. Argon is also is used in the making of specialty alloys and for manufacturing titanium. During manufacturing of steel in a converter, addition of argon reduces chromium losses and the desired carbon content can therefore be achieved at a lower temperature. Further, argon is also used as a blowing gas during the manufacturing process of higher quality steels so as to avoid the formation of nitrides. Argon is also used in the manufacturing of aluminum, for the purpose of hydrogen removal and degasification. It is also used as an inert gas in the titanium manufacturing process because titanium can react with nitrogen. Zirconium manufacturing also uses argon for providing an inert atmosphere.
Use in Healthcare Industry
Argon lasers find application in the treatment of retinal detachment as well as for retinal phototherapy for diabetics. Also, kidney tumors are treated using cryo-needles as part of a procedure in cooled argon cryosurgery, in which diseased or abnormal tissue (such as a tumor or wart) is destroyed or removed by freezing. Argon surgery is also used to treat heart arrhythmias (alterations in the rhythm of the heartbeat).
Uses in Food and Beverage Industry
Argon also finds uses in the food and beverage industry because of its inertness. It is added to wine barrels to displace air. It is denser than air and settles above the liquid, thereby protecting the wine from oxidation and souring. Similarly, it is also used to provide an inert atmosphere for open wine and liquor bottles in bars and restaurants.
Uses of Argon in Lighting
Argon is used in neon tubes. When electricity is passed through it, argon produces a purplish-blue glow. Since it gets charged and starts emitting light at a much lower voltage, it saves money and is therefore a preferred gas for this purpose. It has a similar application in fluorescent lighting as well. Argon is also used in incandescent light bulbs as it prevents quick oxidation of the filament and therefore prolongs the life of the bulb.
Use in Document Preservation
Given the inert nature of the gas, argon is also used to provide a protective atmosphere for old documents so as to prevent their degradation during display and storage.