Facts About Oxygen

Oxygen, a colorless gas that is oftentimes recognized as Element Number 8 on the Periodic Table of Elements, is the most reactive gas of the non-metallic elements and comprises about 21% of the Earth’s atmosphere.

As recorded by a NASA-funded study, oxygen has existed on the earth for approximately 2.3-2.4 billion years, and it began to appear in our atmosphere at least 2.5 billion years ago. While it is not entirely clear why oxygen quickly became such a prominent element in the Earth’s atmosphere, but many assume that geologic changes on the earth played a large role in the process.

Oxygen has the atomic number 8, the atomic symbol O, and an atomic weight of 15.9994. As reported by the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, oxygen is the third most abundant element in the universe. Organisms that utilize oxygen to breathe, called cyanobacteria, inhale carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen through photosynthesis, in the same way as modern-day plants. It is assumed that cyanobacteria are the cause of the first apparition of oxygen in earth’s atmosphere, which is a phenomenon known as the Great Oxidation Event.

The photosynthesis of cyanobacteria was probably occurring long before a significant amount of oxygen was accumulated in the earth’s atmosphere. A report published in the journal Nature Geoscience in 2014 stated that oxygen produced from photosynthesis began in marine environments about half a billion years ago prior to its initial atmospheric accumulation about 2.5 billion years ago.

While those present on Earth today depend on oxygen, the start of the accumulation of this element in the atmosphere was considerably disastrous. The atmospheric change caused a mass extinction of organisms that do not require oxygen, known as anaerobes. These anaerobes that could not survive in environments with oxygen began to slowly to die off.

The primary evidence to humans that oxygen was present in the atmosphere happened in 1608, when a Dutch inventor named Cornelius Drebbel, found that heating potassium nitrate led to the release of a gas. That gas remained unidentified until the 1770s, when [[three chemists began to study it simultaneously. Joseph Priestly, an English chemist was able to isolate oxygen through the process of shining sunlight on mercuric oxide and then collecting the gas that was created as a result of the reaction. Preistly published this discovery in 1774, which led him to be the first scientist to actually publish these oxygen-related findings. Oxygen was given its name from the Greek words “oxy” nucleus and “genes,” which together mean “acid-forming.”

While too little oxygen can be dangerous, so can the presence of too much oxygen. For example, around 300 million years ago, the earth had atmospheric oxygen levels of 35% and insects grew to extreme sizes.

Oxygen is formed through the fusion of a carbon-12 and a helium-4 inside the hearts of stars. However, recently scientists have found the ability to study the oxygen’s structure by looking at its nucleus. And in March of 2014, a physicist at North Carolina State University and his team discovered the nuclear structure of oxygen-16. This is relevant because it explains the process of nuclei formation in stars.

Another team of researchers placed a heavy emphasis on finding oxygen’s role in life on Earth. According to researchers at the University of Southern Denmark, animal life did not appear on Earth until much later than the Great Oxidation Event, with simple animals being found just around 600 million years ago. Although many people assume that the presense of oxygen caused the existence of animals, animals were actually not present on Earth during the first notable increase of oxygen levels in the atmosphere. [[On the contrary|Contrarily|On the other hand], it is believed that something other than the appearance of oxygen resulted in the first development in animal life. While it is possible that rising levels of oxygen led to varied and diversified ecosystems that exist today, there are still many modern-day animals that can survive in extremely low-oxygen areas in the ocean.

Whether you’re looking for oxygen or other specialty gases Rocky Mountain Air Solutions has a wide variety of products to meet all of the Denver specialty gas needs. Rocky Mountain Air Solutions has a large selection of specialty gases and specialty gas equipment, along with the resources and experts on hand in Denver to answer your questions and assist your needs. For more information, browse our online catalog or contact us via email at pevans@rockymountainair.com or at (303) 777-6671.