Related topics: hydrogen · protein · cells · bacteria · carbon dioxide

Breathing new life into the rise of oxygen debate

New research strongly suggests that the distinct 'oxygenation events' that created Earth's breathable atmosphere happened spontaneously, rather than being a consequence of biological or tectonic revolutions.

Oxygen shaped the evolution of the eye

Convergent origins of new mechanisms to supply oxygen to the retina were directly linked to concurrent enhancements in the functional anatomy of the eye.

Liquid flow is influenced by a quantum effect in water

Researchers at EPFL have discovered that the viscosity of solutions of electrically charged polymers dissolved in water is influenced by a quantum effect. This tiny quantum effect influences the way water molecules interact ...

Investigating the rise of oxygenic photosynthesis

About 2.4 billion years ago, at the end of the Archean Eon, a planet-wide increase in oxygen levels called the Great Oxidation Event (GOE) created the familiar atmosphere we all breathe today. Researchers focused on life's ...

How plants harness 'bad' molecules for good ends

When most people think of a plant, they picture stems, leaves, flowers, and all the parts that are visible above ground. But Duke biologist Philip Benfey is more interested in the hidden half of the plant that is buried beneath ...

Research unravels mystery of how early animals survived ice age

How did life survive the most severe ice age? A McGill University-led research team has found the first direct evidence that glacial meltwater provided a crucial lifeline to eukaryotes during Snowball Earth, when the oceans ...

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Oxygen

Oxygen (pronounced /ˈɒksɨdʒɨn/, from the Greek roots ὀξύς (oxys) (acid, literally "sharp", from the taste of acids) and -γενής (-genēs) (producer, literally begetter) is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. It is a member of the chalcogen group on the periodic table, and is a highly reactive nonmetallic period 2 element that readily forms compounds (notably oxides) with almost all other elements. At standard temperature and pressure two atoms of the element bind to form dioxygen, a colorless, odorless, tasteless diatomic gas with the formula O2. Oxygen is the third most abundant element in the universe by mass after hydrogen and helium and the most abundant element by mass in the Earth's crust. Diatomic oxygen gas constitutes 20.9% of the volume of air.

All major classes of structural molecules in living organisms, such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, contain oxygen, as do the major inorganic compounds that comprise animal shells, teeth, and bone. Oxygen in the form of O2 is produced from water by cyanobacteria, algae and plants during photosynthesis and is used in cellular respiration for all complex life. Oxygen is toxic to obligately anaerobic organisms, which were the dominant form of early life on Earth until O2 began to accumulate in the atmosphere 2.5 billion years ago. Another form (allotrope) of oxygen, ozone (O3), helps protect the biosphere from ultraviolet radiation with the high-altitude ozone layer, but is a pollutant near the surface where it is a by-product of smog. At even higher low earth orbit altitudes monatomic oxygen (O1) is a significant presence and a cause of erosion for spacecraft.

Oxygen was independently discovered by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, in Uppsala, in 1773 or earlier, and Joseph Priestley in Wiltshire, in 1774, but Priestley is often given priority because his publication came out in print first. The name oxygen was coined in 1777 by Antoine Lavoisier, whose experiments with oxygen helped to discredit the then-popular phlogiston theory of combustion and corrosion. Oxygen is produced industrially by fractional distillation of liquefied air, use of zeolites to remove carbon dioxide and nitrogen from air, electrolysis of water and other means. Uses of oxygen include the production of steel, plastics and textiles; rocket propellant; oxygen therapy; and life support in aircraft, submarines, spaceflight and diving.

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