Facts About Oxygen

Oxygen, a colorless gas that is otherwise 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%.

According to a study funded by NASA, oxygen has been present 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 experts are not completely sure why oxygen abruptly became such an abundant 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 reported by the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, oxygen is the third most abundant element in the universe. Organisms that use oxygen to breathe, referred to as cyanobacteria, inhale carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen through photosynthesis, as do modern-day plants. It is likely that cyanobacteria are responsible for oxygen first appearing in the atmosphere, which is an event known as the Great Oxidation Event.

The photosynthesis of cyanobacteria was probably occurring long before a noteworthy amount of oxygen was accumulated in the earth’s atmosphere. A report published in the journal Nature Geoscience in 2014 discovered that oxygen produced from photosynthesis initiated 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 beginning accumulation of this element in the atmosphere was to some extent disastrous. The change in the atmosphere caused a mass extinction of organisms that do not live off of oxygen, known as anaerobes. These anaerobes that did not have the ability to survive in environments with oxygen began to slowly to die off.

The beginning evidence to humans that oxygen existed in the atmosphere took place in 1608, when Cornelius Drebbel, an inventor from the Netherlands, found that heating potassium nitrate led to the release of a gas. That gas was unidentified until the 1770s, when [[three chemists began to uncover it at approximately the same time. 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 generated as a result of the reaction. Preistly published this discovery in 1774, becoming 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 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 created through the fusion of a carbon-12 and a helium-4 inside the hearts of stars. However, recently, scientists have gained the ability to study the structure of oxygen 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 important because it helped us learn more about the process of nuclei formation in stars.

An additional set of researchers placed their focus on oxygen’s role in life on Earth. According to researchers at the University of Southern Denmark, animals on Earth did not begin to appear until long after the Great Oxidation Event, with simple animals appearing just around 600 million years ago. While many theorize that the appearance of oxygen resulted in the existence of animals, animals were actually not existing on Earth during the first notable appearance of oxygen levels in the atmosphere. [[On the contrary|Contrarily|On the other hand], it is most commonly believed that something other than the appearance of oxygen resulted in the first increase in animal life. While it is possible that rising levels of oxygen led to varied and diversified ecosystems that are present today, there are still several modern-day animals that are able to live in extremely low-oxygen areas in the ocean.

Whether you’re in search of oxygen or other specialty gases Coastal Welding Supply has a huge selection of products to meet all of the Beaumont specialty gas needs. Coastal Welding Supply has a large selection of specialty gases and specialty gas equipment, along with the resources and experts on hand in Beaumont to answer your questions and assist your needs. For more information, browse our online catalog or contact us via email at jcmazoch@coastalws.com or at 800-852-4177.