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Elements for Kids

Oxygen

The element oxygen

  • Symbol: O
  • Atomic Number: 8
  • Atomic Weight: 15.999
  • Classification: Gas and nonmetal
  • Phase at Room Temperature: Gas
  • Density: 1.429 g/L
  • Melting Point: -218.79°C, -361.82°F
  • Boiling Point: -182.95°C, -297.31°F
  • Discovered by: Joseph Priestley in 1774 and C. W. Scheele independently in 1772
Oxygen is an important element that is needed by most life forms on Earth to survive. It is the third most abundant element in the universe and the most abundant element in the human body. Oxygen has 8 electrons and 8 protons. It is located at the top of column 16 in the periodic table.

The oxygen cycle plays an important role in life on Earth. Click here to read more about the oxygen cycle.

Characteristics and Properties

Under standard conditions oxygen forms a gas that is composed of molecules consisting of two oxygen atoms (O2). This is called a diatomic gas. In this form oxygen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas.

Oxygen also exists as the allotrope ozone (O3). Ozone exists in the upper region of the Earth's atmosphere forming the ozone layer which helps to protect us from the harmful rays of the sun.

Oxygen is a very reactive element in its pure state and can make compounds from many other elements. Oxygen readily dissolves in water.

Where is oxygen found on Earth?

Oxygen is found all around us. It is one of the most important elements on planet Earth. Oxygen makes up around 21% of the Earth's atmosphere and 50% of the mass of the Earth's crust. Oxygen is one of the atoms that makes up water (H2O).

Oxygen is an important element to life on Earth. It is the most abundant element in the human body making up around 65% of the body's mass.

How is oxygen used today?

Oxygen is used by animals and plants in the respiration (breathing) process. Tanks of oxygen are used in medicine to treat people with breathing problems. They are also used as life support for astronauts and scuba divers.

The majority of the oxygen used in industry is used in the manufacturing of steel. Other applications include making new compounds such as plastics and creating a very hot flame for welding. Liquid oxygen is combined with liquid hydrogen to make rocket fuel.

How was it discovered?

Swedish chemist C. W. Scheele first discovered oxygen in 1772. He called the gas "fire air" because it was needed for fire to burn. Scheele did not publish his results right away and the element was independently discovered by British scientist Joseph Priestley in 1774.

Where did oxygen get its name?

The name oxygen comes from the Greek word "oxygenes" meaning "acid producer". It was called this because early chemists thought that oxygen was necessary for all acids.

Isotopes

There are three stable isotopes of oxygen. Over 99% of stable oxygen is made up of the isotope oxygen-16.

Interesting Facts about Oxygen

More on the Elements and the Periodic Table

Elements
Periodic Table

Alkali Metals
Lithium
Sodium
Potassium

Alkaline Earth Metals
Beryllium
Magnesium
Calcium
Radium

Transition Metals
Scandium
Titanium
Vanadium
Chromium
Manganese
Iron
Cobalt
Nickel
Copper
Zinc
Silver
Platinum
Gold
Mercury
Post-transition Metals
Aluminum
Gallium
Tin
Lead

Metalloids
Boron
Silicon
Germanium
Arsenic

Nonmetals
Hydrogen
Carbon
Nitrogen
Oxygen
Phosphorus
Sulfur
Halogens
Fluorine
Chlorine
Iodine

Noble Gases
Helium
Neon
Argon

Lanthanides and Actinides
Uranium
Plutonium

More Chemistry Subjects

Matter
Atom
Molecules
Isotopes
Solids, Liquids, Gases
Melting and Boiling
Chemical Bonding
Chemical Reactions
Radioactivity and Radiation
Mixtures and Compounds
Naming Compounds
Mixtures
Separating Mixtures
Solutions
Acids and Bases
Crystals
Metals
Salts and Soaps
Water
Other
Glossary and Terms
Chemistry Lab Equipment
Organic Chemistry
Famous Chemists


Science >> Chemistry for Kids >> Periodic Table





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