by Carson
Red and yellow burning flames.

Oxygen is an essential element in our bodies. Then, what are its properties?

Oxygen in the Periodic Table

Oxygen is the 8th element in the Universe and the 3rd most abundant one. Also, it is quite active because it only needs 2 electrons to form a stable element. But it cannot explode spontaneously without a reaction because it often comes in pairs.

Due to the abundance of 21% in Earth’s atmosphere, materials can easily have an oxide layer once it is burnt. And active metals, such as sodium, like to react with oxygen so it tarnishes very quickly. Only some inert metals do not oxidize at room temperature because it likes to make compounds.

Oxygen in our lives

Oxygen is the most abundant element in Earth’s crust and it accounts for more than 45% of the crust. This is because it is good at combining with other things such as silicon and iron.

Also, if you were to suck up all your oxygen atoms, you’d lose more than half your mass. It sounds like an excellent way to lose weight, right? No! It is running our bodies. Important stuff like air, water, proteins and even DNA contains it. Without it, your molecules would mess up and you’d perish immediately.

Also, it accounts for 21% of Earth’s atmosphere. Without it, you’d be unable to breathe, and you’d suffer from hearing loss if all the oxygen molecules disappear simultaneously. Also, don’t forget ozone, which is O3. Although it causes some pollution, it protects us from solar radiation which prevents us from being severely sunburnt.

Physical properties

Oxygen has an incredibly weak structure between its molecules that it boils at -183oC. In its liquid phase, it has a blue hue instead of being transparent.

Also, oxygen can fuse into other elements once it reached a temperature of billions of degrees. It occurs in old, massive stars, and fusing it is one step to fuse silicon into iron.

Oxygen has 3 natural isotopes, namely 16O, 17O and 18O. They are all stable and not radioactive. 15O, the most stable oxygen radioisotope, has a half-life of about 2 minutes. The most unstable one is 12O, which its half-life is just yoctoseconds.

Furthermore, if something burns due to combustion, it needs oxygen to support the reaction. Do you know that CO2 and sometimes water can extinguish a fire? That’s because they stop the oxygen from helping the fire, and calming it down. For example, when you put barium in water, it won’t burn because there is no elemental oxygen underwater. That is also why we need special equipment to breathe there!


  1. “Oxygen”, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen
  2. “Sodium”, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium

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