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The Element Oxygen


"The Atom"

What is Oxygen? - Definition of the Oxygen Element
Oxygen is a gas. It is a colorless, tasteless, odourless gaseous element that constitutes 21% of the atmosphere and is found in water, in most rocks and minerals, and in numerous organic compounds, that is capable of combining with all elements except the inert gases, that is active in physiological processes, and that is involved especially in combustion processes.

It is the essential element in the respiratory processes of most of the living cells. The Atomic Number of this element is 8 and the Element Symbol is O.

The Properties of the Oxygen Element
Name of Element : Oxygen
Symbol of Element : O
Atomic Number:  8
Atomic Mass: 15.9994 amu
Melting Point: -218.4 C - 54.750008 K
Boiling Point: -183.0 C - 90.15 K
Number of Protons/Electrons: 8
Number of Neutrons: 8
Crystal Structure: Cubic
Density @ 293 K: 1.429 g/cm3
Color of Oxygen : colorless

What is Oxygen? - Origin / Meaning of the name Oxygen
The name originates from the Greek 'oxys' for "sharp, acid", because oxygen was believed to be the key constituent in the formation of acids, and the Greek 'gen or genes' for "forming". French chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier originally thought that oxygen was an acid producer because by burning phosphorus and sulfur and dissolving them in water, he was able to produce acids.

What is Oxygen? Periodic Table Group and Classification of the Oxygen Element
Elements can be classified based on their physical states (States of Matter) e.g. gas, solid or liquid. This element is a gas. Oxygen is classified as an element in the 'non-metals' section which can be located in groups 14,15 and 16 of the Periodic Table. Non-metallic elements exist, at room temperature, in two of the three states of matter: gases (Oxygen, Hydrogen & Nitrogen) and solids (Carbon, Phosphorus, Sulfur and Selenium).  For additional facts and information refer to Oxygen Properties.

What is Oxygen? - Occurrence of the Oxygen Element
Oxygen is by far the most abundant of all the elements. It occurs both in the free and in the combined state. In the free state it occurs in the air, 100 volumes of dry air containing about 21 volumes of oxygen. In the combined state it forms eight ninths of water and nearly one half of the rocks composing the earth's crust. It is also an important constituent of the compounds which compose plant and animal tissues; for example, about 66% by weight of the human body is oxygen.
Oxygen constitutes 21 percent of the atmosphere.
Found in water, in most rocks and minerals, and in numerous organic compounds
Oxygen comprises about 87% by weight of the oceans as H2O - water

What is Oxygen? - Importance of oxygen
1. Oxygen is essential to life. Among living organisms only certain minute forms of plant life can exist without it. In the process of respiration the air is taken into the lungs where a certain amount of oxygen is absorbed by the blood. It is then carried to all parts of the body, oxidizing the worn-out tissues and changing them into substances which may readily be eliminated from the body. The heat generated by this oxidation is the source of the heat of the body. The small amount of oxygen which water dissolves from the air supports all the varied forms of aquatic animals.

2. Oxygen is also essential to decay. The process of decay is really a kind of oxidation, but it will only take place in the presence of certain minute forms of life known as bacteria. Just how these assist in the oxidation is not known. By this process the dead products of animal and vegetable life which collect on the surface of the earth are slowly oxidized and so converted into harmless substances. In this way oxygen acts as a great purifying agent.

3. Oxygen is also used in the treatment of certain diseases in which the patient is unable to inhale sufficient air to supply the necessary amount of oxygen.

Medical Uses of Oxygen - Health and Treatments
Interesting information is contained in the following list of Medical uses of Oxygen, Health and Treatments.

  • Hypoxia / Hypoxemia: Levels of oxygen in the blood are below normal or life-threatening: Compressed Gaseous Oxygen

  • Asthma, Bronchitis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Inability to inhale sufficient air: Supplemental oxygen therapy

  • Decompression sickness (the bends), carbon monoxide poisoning, non-healing wounds: Various symptoms according to the type illness and health issue: Hyperbaric Oxygen treatment

A useful reference providing information regarding the medical uses of Oxygen, associated health issues and disorders and treatments using oxygen.

Medical Uses of Oxygen - Oxygen Therapy
Ozone or Oxygen therapy is far more widely accepted in Europe than in the United States. Recent European research in ozone or oxygen therapy includes studies in the oxygenation of resting muscles, the treatment of vascular disorders, and the relief of back pain from herniated lumbar disks. In respiratory therapy oxygen is administered to increase the amount circulating in the blood.

Lack of Oxygen - Symptoms and Effects caused by lack of Oxygen
Lack of oxygen, as experienced during ascent to high altitudes or in certain illnesses, may bring on a variety of symptoms of hypoxia, or lack of oxygen. A number of poisons, such as cyanide and carbon monoxide, can disrupt the oxygen distribution system of the body. Such disruption occurs also in various illnesses, such as anemia and diseases of lungs, heart, kidneys and the liver.

Associated Uses of Oxygen
Rocket propulsion
Oxygen sensors
Medicine and Health Care - Oxygen masks
Oxygen Tanks
Oxygen concentrator

Abundances of the element in different environments
% in Universe 1%
% in Sun 0.9%
% in Meteorites 40%
% in Earth's Crust 46%
% in Oceans 86%
% in Humans 61%

What is Oxygen? - Facts about the Discovery and History of the Oxygen Element
The discovery of oxygen is generally attributed to the English chemist Joseph Priestley, who in 1774 obtained the element by heating a compound of Mercury and oxygen, known as red oxide of mercury. It is probable, however, that the German-Swedish chemist Scheele had previously obtained it, although an account of his experiments was not published until 1777. It was named by Antoine Laurent Lavoisier in 1777.

Joseph Priestley
Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) was an English school teacher, theologian, philosopher and scientist and a friend of Benjamin Franklin. Joseph Priestley is credited as the discoverer of oxygen. He was a defender of the phlogiston theory and was the first to use mercury in a pneumatic trough, by which means he first isolated in gaseous form hydrochloric acid, sulphur dioxide, and ammonia.

Carl Wilhelm Scheele
Carl Scheele (9 December 1742 21 May 1786) was a German chemist who made a number of important chemical discoveries before many others but was rarely given the credit for his findings. For instance, although Scheele discovered oxygen Joseph Priestley published his findings first so was given the credit. Carl Scheele also identified molybdenum, Tungsten, barium, Hydrogen and Chlorine before Humphry Davy and other scientists.

Antoine Lavoisier
Antoine Lavoisier was famous for his care in quantitative experiments, for demonstrating the true nature of combustion, for introducing system into the naming and grouping of chemical substances. Lavoisier was executed in 1794 during the French Revolution.

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