Argon gas is a staple in many commercial applications. It is a noble gas that is colourless, odourless and inert to other substances. It is extremely unreactive, due to which it forms very few compounds. One of the most common uses of argon cylinders is in the welding industry. Due to its inertness, it prevents the welded metals from being oxidised. It is also used in a wide range of other applications.
Argon cylinders are used extensively in the healthcare industry. Argon gas lakers are used in the treatment of retinal detachment and phototherapy in diabetic patients and also in surgeries to weld arteries and destroy tumours. In addition, argon laser systems are also used in the healthcare industry as they can target areas with extreme precision. The cryo-needles used in treating kidney tumours are cooled during argon cryosurgery to remove or destroy abnormal or diseased tissue by freezing. The uses of argon cylinders also include the treatment of complications such as alterations in the rhythm of the heartbeat.
Argon gas is used within neon tubes in lighting. Electricity passing through argon gas produces a purple-blue glow and emits light at a much lower voltage, thus saving money. Due to this reason, argon gas is becoming the most preferred choice of gas for this purpose. It is also used in incandescent light bulbs to prevent quick oxidation of the filament and prolong the bulb's life.
Food and beverage industry
Due to their inertness, argon cylinders are widely used in the food and drink industry. The gas is added to wine barrels to displace air, as it is denser than air, which enables it to settle above the liquid, thus protecting the wine from souring and oxidation. This also goes for open wine and liquid bottles in restaurants and bars.
In the manufacturing industry, argon gas is popular in the making of speciality alloys and also in the manufacture of titanium. Argon gas is the shield gas used in arc welding as it can protect the metal from oxygen. Tungsten inert gas, or TIG, uses both pure and argon mixtures. In the manufacture of steel in a converter, argon gas reduces the chromium losses, which means that the desired carbon content can be met at a reduced and lower temperature. Similarly, argon gas is used in hydrogen removal and degasification to manufacture aluminium.
Preservation of documents
This is one of the fascinating applications of argon. It is used to preserve old documentation due to its inert nature, creating a protective atmosphere, thus preventing degradation and damage during storage.
This may come as a surprise, but argon gas is widely used around the home for thermal insulation in energy-efficient and double-glazed windows. The gas is used to fill the space between the panes. If you want to check if windows contain argon gas, you can look for two small holes along the spacer material, which are needed during the production of the windows, one for pumping argon in and the other to push out as the gas comes in.
Argon gas cylinders are also used in scuba diving, where the gas is used as a dry suit insulation for cold-water diving due to its inert properties and low thermal conductivity. It is also used in argox form, a mixture of argon and oxygen, as a breathing gas for scuba divers.
This is the primary application of argon gas, where it is used as an inert shielding agent, which protects the molten metal from contamination and oxidation caused by harmful atmospheric gases. Helium is also added to argon as it improves its heat transfer properties, and adding carbon dioxide or oxygen helps stabilise the welding arc.
Several industrial processes require very high temperatures where argon can be used in place of ordinarily non-reactive substances that would become reactive. It also provides a nitrogen and oxygen-free setting for any processes involving high-temperature heat treatment.
Other applications of argon gas
- It can be used as a carrier gas in cinematography
- It also finds its use in cryosurgery, fire extinguishing, refrigeration, spectroscopy and airbag inflation.
- Argon gas offers a blanket atmosphere to grow crystals.
- It is used as the target for neutrino experiments and direct searches for dark matter in its liquid form.
- The gas is also used in fluorescent glow starters.
- Argon lasers are used in applications like high-speed printing, forensic medicine, holography, microscopy, and laser shows in entertainment.
While other inter gases can fulfil some properties of argon, this gas is especially attractive because of its abundance and cost-effectiveness. Disposable argon gas cylinders are a cost-effective alternative to stationary, industrial-size cylinders.