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Basic Chemistry Concepts


insulated containers, in2, compressed gases, separation process, krypton

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Air, mixture of gases that composes the atmosphere surrounding Earth. These gases consist primarily of the elements nitrogen, oxygen, argon, and smaller amounts of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, water vapor, helium, neon, krypton, xenon, and others. The most important attribute of air is its life-sustaining property. Human and animal life would not be possible without oxygen in the atmosphere. In addition to providing life-sustaining properties, the various atmospheric gases can be isolated from air and used in industrial and scientific applications, ranging from steelmaking to the manufacture of semiconductors. This article discusses how atmospheric gases are isolated and used for industrial and scientific purposes.

Shipment and Storage

Oxygen, nitrogen, and argon are shipped and stored either as liquids or as compressed gases. As liquids, they are stored in insulated containers; as compressed gases, they are held in steel cylinders that are pressurized up to 170 kg/cm2 (2,400 lb/in2). When recovered, neon, krypton, and xenon are packaged as gases in steel cylinders or glass flasks. Because industries can obtain helium at lower costs from other sources, it is generally returned to the atmosphere after the separation process.


Derr, Dennis L., B.S., M.S.

General Manager of Process Plants and Services, Air Products and Chemical, Inc.

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