interesting facts about oxygen

12 Awesome Facts about Oxygen

As far as gases go, oxygen is pretty essential! In fact, let’s cut to the chase – none of us would even be here without oxygen. It is one of the most important elements in the entire universe and one we desperately need! Yet, how much do you know about this tasteless, odorless, colorless gas? Here are some fun facts about oxygen to take you all the way back to science class.

1. It is represented by the symbol “O.”

If you are hunting around for the oxygen symbol on the periodic table, you will find it simply as “O.” It has an atomic number of 8 and is the third most abundant element in the universe.

2. It is essential for life on Earth.

As we know, oxygen is essential to our life on Earth, as is the case for most organisms on this planet! Even underwater organisms need their O2! We use it in cellular respiration to produce energy, too.

3. The element was discovered by Carl Wilhelm Scheele.

Oxygen was indeed discovered by the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele in 1772. It was also independently unearthed by the English chemist Joseph Priestley in 1774.

Oxygen tank for emergency

4. The word “oxygen” is Greek.

The term “oxygen” comes from two Greek words; “oxy” (acid) and “genes” (producer), meaning “acid-forming.” This reflects oxygen’s role in supporting combustion.

5. It is the most abundant element on Earth.

It may come as no surprise that oxygen is by far the most abundant element found in the Earth’s crust. In fact, it makes up about 46.6% of the Earth’s mass!

6. However, it is not the gas we breathe the most.

In Earth’s atmosphere, oxygen makes up about 21% of the air we breathe, with nitrogen being the most abundant gas, making up about 78% of the air we breathe! It’s here that there’s some confusion. Nitrogen isn’t more abundant than oxygen, period – there’s just more of it in the air we breathe.

7. Oxygen cylinders save lives.

Oxygen cylinders are incredible tools used in medical fields to provide supplemental oxygen to patients with breathing difficulties.

8. Oxygen is liquefiable.

Oxygen can indeed be liquified! However, it can only liquify at extremely low temperatures (-183 degrees Celsius or -297 degrees Fahrenheit). In this form, it is used in rocket propulsion systems and medical equipment. You’d need a pretty powerful freezer to try this experiment at home!

9. You can go to an oxygen bar to relax.

Believe it or not, you can even visit an oxygen bar! Now, before you worry about the bartenders just serving you air, don’t. These establishments provide purified oxygen for relaxation and potential health benefits to their customers!

Man relaxing at an Oxygen bar

10. Oxygen is key to making fire.

Oxygen supports and sustains fires, and fire extinguishers work by displacing oxygen or inhibiting its availability to flames.

11. Your car has an oxygen sensor.

As long as your car was built after 1981, it has an oxygen sensor! These sensors are used in vehicles to monitor the level of oxygen in exhaust gases, helping to optimize fuel combustion and reduce emissions.

12. The oxygen cycle proves, yet again, that this element is vital for supporting all life on Earth.

Oxygen is cycled through the Earth’s ecosystems in processes like photosynthesis (plants produce oxygen) and respiration (organisms like us and other animals use oxygen).

Scuba diving cylinders use a mixture of oxygen called Nitrox

FAQs about Oxygen

Is oxygen gas O2 or O?

Although we often refer to oxygen as O2, it isn’t always known by this compound. O is a singular oxygen atom, while O2 is a molecule made up of two oxygen molecules.

Can you breathe 100% oxygen?

Although for medical purposes and emergencies we are sometimes made to breathe higher concentrations of oxygen, we should not breathe 100% oxygen for long periods of time. This is due to the fact that such a concentration of oxygen could harm our lungs and potentially harm other parts of our bodies.

Do astronauts breathe pure oxygen?

Once astronauts are safely in their suits, they do breathe pure oxygen for a few hours. This helps to rid their bodies of nitrogen to make their time in space safer!

Further reading

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This page was last modified on September 25, 2023. Suggest an edit

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