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ARGON

DOI: 10.1615/AtoZ.a.argon

(Gr. argos, inactive), Ar; atomic weight 39.948; atomic number 18; freezing point -189°C; boiling point -185°C; density 1.7837 g/l. Its presence in air was suspected by Cavendish in 1785, discovered by Lord Rayleigh and Sir William Ramsay in 1894. The gas is prepared by fractionation of liquid air, the atmosphere containing 0.94% argon. The atmosphere of Mars contains 1.6% of Ar40 and 5 p.p.m. of Ar36.

Argon is two and one half times as soluble in water as nitrogen, having about the same solubility as oxygen. It is recognized by the characteristic lines in the red end of the spectrum. It is used in electric light bulbs and in fluorescent tubes at a pressure of about 3 mm, and in filling photo tubes, glow tubes, etc. Argon is also used as an inert gas shield for welding and cutting, as a blanket for the production of titanium and other reactive elements, and as a protective atmosphere for growing silicon and germanium crystals.

Argon is colorless and odorless, both as a gas and liquid. It is available in high-purity form. Commercial argon is available at a cost of about 3c per cubic foot.

Argon is considered to be a very inert gas and is not known to form true chemical compounds, as do krypton, xenon, and radon. However, it does form a hydrate having a dissociation pressure of 105 arm at 0° C. Ion molecules such as (ArKr)*, (ArXe)*, (NeAr)* have been observed spectroscopically. Argon also forms a clathrate with β hydroquinone. This clathrate is stable and can be stored for a considerable time, but a true chemical bond does not exist. Van der Waals’ forces act to hold the argon. Naturally occurring argon is a mixture of three isotopes. Five other radioactive isotopes are now known to exist.

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