Scientists have discovered that the air in the atmosphere around us is heavier (more dense) than they had previously thought. Knowing this will enable scientists to measure the mass of objects more accurately than ever before.
Writing in the Institute of Physics journal Metrologia, a team from the Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science (KRISS) and the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in France, report a new determination of the content of argon in air, the first since 1969.
If asked to name the major chemical components of air, most of us would list oxygen (about 21%), carbon dioxide (about 0.04%) and water vapour (typically about 1%). The principal component of air is nitrogen and the only other major component is argon (about 0.9 %). Argon is chemically inert and its presence in the atmosphere poses no problem to human well-being. Old measurements dating from as early as 1903 gave the content (moles of argon/mole of dry air) as 0.934 %. The most recent value available until now was lower (0.917 %) and was thought to supersede the previous result. The work reported in Metrologia gives a new figure (0.9332 ± 0.0006)%, very close to the measurement results of 100 years ago. The uncertainty in the new measurement is given at the 95% confidence limit and is of unprecedented accuracy.
David Reid | EurekAlert!
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