Oxygen is a social and most widely occurring natural element on earth. It is an efficiently active and lively element that makes up approximately 20.95% (209500 ppm) volume and about 23% weight of the atmosphere that we breathe in. It is present in earth’s crust with the highest mass percentage of about 47.4% among all other elements. It has the highest percentage in human body composition i.e. approximately 43000 grams per average being. It also is the third most abundant element [after hydrogen (H) and Helium (He)] in the whole universe with an approximate abundance of 10,000,000 ppb.
It occurs freely in the air as (O2) molecule and in a combined state with metals, nonmetals, metalloids. Oxides are the most stable substances of natural elements, therefore, the ores of these elements are mostly oxides.
For example, Hematite (Fe2O3), Brucite (Mg(OH)) and Gibbsite (Al(OH)3), etc.
It can interact with almost every element of the periodic table. It can even react with noble gases e.g. with xenon (Xe), it forms xenon tetraoxide (XeO4).
The importance of oxygen in our daily life can be summarized as:
1. Respiration, a metabolic process
Oxygen is required for metabolic processes occurring inside the mitochondria of a living cell, which provide energy to the body. This process is called respiration.
2. Marine life
Oceans are in dynamic equilibrium with oxygen in air, making it crucial for marine life. Water dissolved oxygen is necessary for underwater living organisms. Oxygen dissolves in water through aerating action of winds over the water surface.
3. Scuba diving equipment
Scuba divers take oxygen mixed with inert gasses (at adjusted percentages of 21% oxygen, 78% nitrogen, and 1% other trace gases) in a tank to breathe down there.
4. Combustion (Reaction of fuels with oxygen)
Oxygen helps in burning, which makes it inevitable for life. Most of the energy sources we have, use combustion as the mother process.
5. Ozone, a worth saving gas
Ozone, an allotropic form of oxygen, is the critical covering around the earth protecting us from harmful radiations from the sun.
6. Water purification
Oxygen is used in water purification as it oxidizes the impurities like iron (Fe), removes dissolved gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), and removes volatile organic solvents (VOCs) from water.
7. Sanitizing agent
Oxygen can be an important sanitizing gas against anaerobic bacteria or other species.
8. Sewage treatment plants
9. Combustion engines
Internal Combustion engines use oxygen as burning (explosion) source, which makes oxygen very important in engine technology.
10. Industrial sector
a) In chemical industries, oxygen is used for the oxidation processes e.g. fabrication process of steel manufacturing, oxidation of hydrocarbons, hydrogen peroxide, nitric acid, and acids, etc.
b) A wide application of oxygen rests in the pulp and paper manufacturing industry.
c) In a welding torch, oxygen gas is continuously supplied with the fuel for smooth burning.
11. Space adventures
Aerospace shuttles and rockets carry a mixture of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen as fuel. The liquid hydrogen is used as the fuel and liquid oxygen as the oxidizer. As a fact, oxidizers help in burning.
12. Life supporting systems on International Space Stations (ISS)
Oxygen is used for life-supporting systems on International space stations (ISS).
13. Oxygen therapy
Oxygen therapy is a therapeutical treatment using extra oxygen to deal with several diseases. For example, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart failure, cystic fibrosis, asthma, and COVID-19, etc.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a therapy used to treat carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, gas gangrene or embolisms, wounds, and infections of severe type. HBOT consists of a hyperbaric chamber, where 1.5 to 3 times extra oxygen is provided to the patient as compared to the normal concentration present in the atmosphere.
14. Oxygen supplements
As a savior, oxygen gas supplements are used in ICUs for critical patients. Oxygen is supplied by venturi masks, T-tubes, ventilator machines, and CPAP masks, etc.
15. Oxygen bars
The use of oxygen for recreational purposes (as claimed by sellers) consists of about 95% pure oxygen with some flavored scents administered directly in a person’s nostrils. It is although a controversial thought but oxygen bars are claimed to be safe, healthy, and good for the well-being of an ill person. It is claimed to be good for boosting energy levels, alertness, improving immunity, reducing stress, and the body’s sinus-related problems.
These benefits of oxygen bars have not been proven yet, so before trying these out, one must consult a doctor. Such a high level of oxygen is not natural for the human body which may harm the user.