The aim of this study is to assess the effect of argon gas (0–30%) addition in pure nitrogen and nitrogen‑hydrogen admixture on the surface properties of plain carbon steel by cathodic cage plasma nitriding. The surface hardness is obtained using hardness tester, phase composition is evaluated by X-ray diffraction, surface features are observed using scanning electron microscope (SEM) along with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) and wear rate is assessed using the ball-on-disc tester. Insignificant change in hardness is found in nitrogen plasma (with or without argon admixing), whereas it is expressively improved in nitrogen-hydrogen mixture
plasma. The samples treated in nitrogen atmosphere mainly contains oxides, whereas iron nitrides in the nitrogen- hydrogen atmosphere, both with and without argon. The thickness of the modified layer is drastically changed with gasses composition, and the thick layer is achieved in nitrogen‑hydrogen admixture. The wear rate is also significantly improved while using nitrogen‑hydrogen mixture, and best results are achieved by using 20% argon in this mixture. This study reveals that although argon addition can enhance the reactive species
production, however the presence of hydrogen is compulsory to improve the surface properties.