Oxygen Facts

Oxygen Facts

You may not know it, but oxygen is all around you, all the time. In fact, oxygen is one reason you’re able to survive on this planet called Earth. Still not really sure what oxygen is? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know!


What is oxygen?

Oxygen is a chemical element. Out of the 118 elements in the universe, oxygen is the 3rd most common. There is more oxygen inside your body than any other element, and at least 21% of Earth’s atmosphere is made of oxygen. So why have you never seen it?

This element is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. That means even though oxygen is constantly around you, you can’t see it, smell it, or taste it.

Every time you take a breath, you are breathing in oxygen, and you need oxygen to live. You’re not alone—all living things need oxygen for survival, even animals that live underwater.

How was oxygen discovered?

Oxygen is really, really old. It’s been on Earth for at least 2.3-2.4 billion years! But even though oxygen has been around for a long, long time, it took until 1608 for people to notice. A Dutch inventor named Cornelius Drebbel was working on an experiment when he noticed a mysterious gas being released.

By the 1770s, at least three different chemists were trying to solve the mystery of this unknown gas:

  • In 1771, a scientist named Carl Wilhelm Steele discovered oxygen, but he never published his findings.
  • A chemist named Joseph Priestly realized that the flame of a candle burned brighter in the mystery gas in 1774, and he did many other experiments to learn more about the gas.
  • A third chemist named Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier finally gave the gas a name: oxygen. Oxygen’s name comes from the Greek oxy and genes, which means “acid-forming.”


How is oxygen used?

We already learned that all living things on Earth use oxygen to breathe, but oxygen has many other uses too.

Oxygen is used to make steel and plastic, and liquid oxygen is one of the main ingredients in rocket fuel! It is also used in cars and airplanes. Fire uses oxygen to burn.

Oxygen tanks help people with breathing problems live and breathe. They also help astronauts walk in space and scuba divers swim to the bottom of the ocean.

Interesting facts about oxygen

-Oxygen is literally everywhere—it’s not only in the atmosphere and the air around you, but it’s also in rocks and dirt, in the ocean, and even in the Sun. 50% of the Earth’s crust is filled with oxygen, and the oxygen in the Sun helps it burn.

-Although the gas form of oxygen is clear and colorless, it becomes light blue as a liquid. Liquid oxygen is also very, very cold.

-If we didn’t have plants, we wouldn’t have very much oxygen. This is one reason it’s important to keep our planet healthy, along with the plants that grow on it.

-Oxygen is mostly good for our bodies, but too much oxygen can be very bad. When there is too much oxygen in the blood, a condition called “the bends” happens. Tiny bubbles build up in the blood, and it is very painful or sometimes even deadly. This can be a problem for astronauts and scuba divers.


-Too much oxygen can also make a fire grow big and out of control, or it can even cause explosions.

-A long time ago, there was even more oxygen on planet Earth than there is today. What was the effect of all this extra oxygen? Some insects back then were giant. Dragonflies were the size of hawks! Cockroaches were as big as pet cats! Sounds like a scary movie, doesn’t it?

-Oxygen dissolves faster in cool water than it does in warm water.

Now you’re an oxygen expert! Oxygen is in more than just the air we breathe: it’s in the ocean, the Sun, dirt, rocks, plastic, cars, airplanes, and more. We need it to live, fire needs it to burn, and oxygen-producing plants make it all possible. Oxygen is one fascinating element.