Facts About Oxygen

Oxygen, a colorless gas that is likewise referred to as Element Number 8 on the Periodic Table of Elements, is the most reactive out of the non-metallic elements and exists at atmospheric levels at about 21%.

NASA funded a study that found that oxygen has existed on the earth for approximately 2.3-2.4 billion years, and it initially came into existence in our atmosphere at least 2.5 billion years ago. While experts are not completely sure why oxygen abruptly became such a prominent element in the Earth’s atmosphere, but many assume it was a result of several geologic changes that took place on Earth.

Oxygen has the atomic number 8, the atomic symbol O, and an atomic weight of 15.9994. As stated by the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, oxygen is the third most abundant element in the universe. Organisms that utilize oxygen to breathe, referred to as cyanobacteria, inhale carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen through photosynthesis, similar to what is done by modern-day plants. It is probable that cyanobacteria caused the initial appearance of oxygen on Earth, which is an occurance referred to as the Great Oxidation Event.

The photosynthesis of cyanobacteria was most likely taking place long before a noteworthy amount of oxygen was accumulated in the earth’s atmosphere. A report published in the journal Nature Geoscience in 2014 claimed that oxygen created from photosynthesis began in marine environments around half a billion years ago prior to it beginning to accumulate in the atmosphere about 2.5 billion years ago.

While those present on Earth today depend on oxygen, the initial accumulation of this element in the atmosphere was to some extent detrimental. The change in the atmosphere led to a mass extinction of organisms that do not require oxygen, known as anaerobes. These anaerobes that could not survive in environments with oxygen started to die off.

The initial evidence to humans that oxygen was present in the atmosphere happened in 1608, when Cornelius Drebbel, a Dutch inventor, came to the conclusion that heating potassium nitrate caused the release of a gas. That gas went unidentified until the 1770s, when [[three chemists began to discover it at approximately the same time. Joseph Priestly, an English chemist was able to isolate oxygen by shining sunlight on mercuric oxide and then collecting the gas that was produced as a result of the reaction. Preistly published this discovery in 1774, which led him to be the first scientist to actually publish these discoveries about oxygen. Oxygen was given its name from the Greek words “oxy” nucleus and “genes,” which together mean “acid-forming.”

While not enough oxygen can be harmful, 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 generated through the fusion of a carbon-12 and a helium-4 inside the hearts of stars. However, scientists have recently been able to 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 colleagues discovered the nuclear structure of oxygen-16. This is relevant because it explains the process of nuclei formation in stars.

An additional team of researchers placed their focus on oxygen’s role in life on Earth. According to researchers at the University of Southern Denmark, animal life appeared long after the Great Oxidation Event, with simple animals being found just around 600 million years ago. Although many people theorize that the appearance of oxygen led to the existence of animals, animals were actually not present on Earth during the initial significant rise of oxygen levels in the atmosphere. [[On the contrary|Contrarily|On the other hand], it is probably that that something other than the appearance of oxygen led to the first development in animal life. While it may be true that high levels of oxygen caused varied and diversified ecosystems that are present today, there are still a variety modern-day animals that are able to live in extremely low-oxygen areas in the ocean.

Whether you’re needing oxygen or other specialty gases WestAir Specialty Gases and Equipment has a huge selection of products to meet all of the Southern California specialty gas needs. WestAir Specialty Gases and Equipment has a large selection of specialty gases and specialty gas equipment, along with the resources and experts on hand in Southern California to answer your questions and assist your needs. For more information, browse our online catalog or contact us via email at info@westairgases.com or at 866-WESTAIR.