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Difference Between Air and Oxygen

What is Air and Oxygen?

Air and oxygen are often used interchangeably but both are different terms. Oxygen is a pure element while air consists of combination of several elements. Air comprises of the mixture of several gases present in the atmosphere and oxygen is termed as one of the essential components present in the air. Therefore, the major difference between air and oxygen is that air is a mixture of multiple gases and oxygen is an individual gaseous component that exists as a part of air.

Oxygen is important for welding, in hospitals, as life support for scuba divers and in many other industries whereas air influences climate patterns and carry sound waves due to which sounds can be heard. Ozone layer present in air safeguards us from harmful UV rays etc. Air comprises oxygen but oxygen although generically called air does not contain air. 

 

What is Air?

Air is defined as a mixture of several gases. The air which is used for breathing primarily contains oxygen (21%) and nitrogen (78%). Other gases, including helium, neon, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and argon, make up the remainder. All these gases are dissolvable and are carried in the blood.

What is Oxygen?

Oxygen is an element, and it is also used to refer to its chemical form which is O2. It has two oxygen atoms bonded to each other and is the part of air we require to breathe.

Combustible substances like wood burn with much more brightness and vigorously than in air, as only 1/5th of air is composed of oxygen.

Difference between Air and Oxygen

Description

Air

It is defined as a combination of multiple gases present in different quantities in the atmosphere.

Oxygen

Oxygen is a chemical element present on the Periodic Table of Elements. It is represented by formulae O2 and its atomic number is 8. It was discovered independently by both Joseph Priestly and by Carl Scheele.

Oxygen is a critical and vital ingredient that fuels the cells in our body.

Composition

Air

Air comprises of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 4% water vapour and 1% argon. In addition, carbon dioxide, methane, helium and neon contribute 345, 1.7, 5 and 8 parts per million, respectively. At lower concentrations, nitrous oxide, ozone and chlorinated fluorocarbons are also found. Air is slightly lighter than oxygen.

Oxygen

Molecular oxygen contains diatomic oxygen molecules. Oxygen is number 8 on the periodic table, which means that it has 8 electrons and 8 protons. Only a handful of elements, including hydrogen and helium, are lighter. It possesses a cubic structure. Oxygen is guaranteed to be at least 95% pure oxygen.

Importance

Air

  • Air is everywhere around us and it isn’t just a gas. Air is very important for all living beings. Plants and animals need air to breathe.
  • When animals and human beings breathe, an odourless gas called carbon dioxide is exhaled out. Carbon dioxide is good as well as bad. Plants make use of this carbon dioxide to make food and oxygen as well. The process is termed as photosynthesis. Huge amounts of carbon dioxide are generated when fossil fuels are burned. This is bad because carbon dioxide is the major contributor to human caused global warming.
  • Air is also important in terms of holding water and controlling the process of humidity
  • Air present in the atmosphere protects us from meteoroids. When meteoroids come in contact with our atmosphere, air causes them to burn into tiny pieces before reaching the earth surface
  • The air also acts as insulation, helping the Earth from getting too cold or too hot
  • Another gas present in air called Ozone, protects us from too much sunlight
  • Air plays an important role in recycling one of Earth’s most vital substances called as carbon
  • Air is responsible for carrying sound waves from one point to another. Eliminate air, and no one will ever hear any sound that moves between locations

Oxygen

  • Oxygen is needed for nearly every mechanism within human body. Optimal levels of oxygen in the body ensures good health and well-being
  • Oxygen tanks are used in medicine to treat people with breathing problems and as life support for scuba divers and astronauts and
  • Oxygen is used in the metal-mechanic industries for casting materials and welding made of steel and iron
  • It is also used in the oxidation of the natural gas, production of synthesis gases, and for decreasing water vapor by the carbon
  • Oxygen provides the pressure necessary for aeroplane. Submarines make use of other form of oxygen – hydrogen peroxide, (H2O2) when starting their engines; Some submarine torpedoes also discharge from these machines using oxygen
  • Rockets make use of liquid oxygen as an oxidizer

Colour and Odour

Air

Depending on the composition of air, it can have an odour and a specific colour

Oxygen

Oxygen is a colourless gas without taste or odour

 

Summary of the Difference between  Air vs. Oxygen

The points of difference between Air and Oxygen have been summarized as below:

 

Dr. Amita Fotedar -Dr

Research Consultant: PhD in Environmental Sciences at History of working in Elite Research Institutes like United Nations Development Program
Dr Amita Fotedar is an experienced Research Consultant with a demonstrated history of working in elite Research Institutes like United Nations Development Programme, Istanbul, Turkey, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India and International Water Management Institute, Colombo, Srilanka.
Skilled in Biological Sciences, Environmental Health, Natural Resources, Water Resource Management, and Renewable Energy, she has a PhD in Environmental Sciences from the University of Jammu, India. Apart from her PhD, she has a Post Graduate Diploma in International Studies from International Pacific University, New Zealand Campus, and has also been rewarded a certification in Climate Studies from Harvard University (EdX). She is a recipient of Academic Excellence Award from International Pacific University, New Zealand campus. At present she is pursuing MicroMasters in Sustainable Energy from The University of Queensland, Australia.
She is a Co- founder and Research Advisor for a New Zealand based Sustainability and Environmental Services Entity and is also a member of the Environmental Peacebuilding Association at SDG Academy, offering mentorship (a collaborative network of academic and research institutions under the auspices of UN Secretary-General). She has around 35 national and international publications to her credit.
Dr. Amita Fotedar -Dr

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References :


[0]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/de/illustrations/sauerstoff-element-periodensystem-4300494/

[1]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/de/photos/luft-atmosph%C3%A4re-blau-klar-klima-2716/

[2]Smith, E. R., & Matheson, H. (1936). Difference in atomic weight of oxygen from air and from water. J. Research Natl. Bur. Standards, 17, 625.

[3]Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. “The Chemical Composition of Air.” ThoughtCo, August. 7, 2019. Available here  

[4]“Atmospheric Chemistry.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 Aug. 2019. Available here

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