Argon (Ar)

What is argon?

Argon is a colourless, odourless, inert noble gas denser than air. Named after the Greek word argos, which means “inactive”, it is obtained by distilling atmospheric air.

In industry, it is used as a shielding agent for metal welding (GTAW welding) or in mixtures with other gases (GMAW welding). Argon is also used in modified-atmosphere food packaging and oenology.

In healthcare, its applications include excimer lasers (ophthalmology) and as a treatment method in digestive endoscopy, because argon combined with an electric current can coagulate bleeding injuries from the mucous membrane of the intestinal tract. It is also used in analytic laboratories for chromatography.

Argon has other curious applications:

  • Light bulbs and lamps. Argon is found inside some light bulbs and lamps to preserve the filaments from the air and lengthen their lifespan while giving the light a bluish tone.
  • Diving dry suits. Argon is used to inflate diving dry suits because it is denser than air. As a result, the fibres of the suit stay dry for a longer time, providing improved thermal insulation.
  • Preservation of documents and works of art. Museums and archives use anoxia, the absence of oxygen, to preserve their heritage in optimal conditions. Instead of oxygen, they use argon, which is not toxic and avoids the onset of insects.

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