Argon is the third noble gas, in period 8, and it makes up about 1% of the Earth's atmosphere. Argon has approximately the same solubility as oxygen and it is 2.5 times as soluble in water as nitrogen . This chemically inert element is colorless and odorless in both its liquid and gaseous forms. It is not found in any compounds. This gas is isolated through liquid air fractionation since the atmosphere contains only 0.94% argon. The Martian atmosphere in contrast contains 1.6% of Ar-40 and 5 ppm Ar-36. World production exceeds 750.000 tons per year, the supply is virtually inexhaustible. Shield Gas in Welding: Argon is used in the welding of specialty alloys as well as in the welding of automobile frames, mufflers and other automotive parts. It is called a shield gas because it does not react with whatever gases and metals are hovering in the vicinity of the metals being welded; it merely takes up space and prevents other, unwanted reactions from occurring nearby owing to reactive gases such as nitrogen and oxygen. Heat Treating: As an inert gas, argon can be used used to provide an oxygen- and nitrogen-free setting for heat-treating processes. 3-D Printing: Argon is put to use in the burgeoning field of three-dimensional printing. During the rapid heating and cooling of the printing material, the gas will prevent oxidation of the metal and other reactions and can limit stress impact. Argon can also be mixed with other gases to create specialty blends as needed. Metal Production: Similar to its role in welding, argon can be used in the synthesis of metals via other processes because it prevents oxidation (rusting) and displaces unwanted gases such as carbon monoxide. Dangers of Argon That argon is chemically inert does not, unfortunately, mean that it is free of potential health hazards. Argon gas can irritate the skin and the eyes on contact, and in its liquid form it can cause frostbite (there are relatively few uses of argon oil, and "argan oil," a common ingredient in cosmetics, is not even remotely the same as argon). High levels of argon gas in the air in a closed environment can displace oxygen and lead to respiratory problems ranging from mild to severe, depending on how much argon is present. This results in symptoms of suffocation including headache, dizziness, confusion, weakness and tremors at the milder end, and coma and even death in the most extreme cases. In cases of known skin or eye exposure, rinsing and flushing with warm water is the preferred treatment. When argon has been inhaled, standard respiratory support, including oxygenation by mask, may be required to being blood oxygen levels back to normal; getting the affected person out of the argon-rich environment is of course necessary as well.
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