Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out… each breath that Sonya takes delivers a healthy amount of oxygen to her body!
But it’s not just Sonya that needs oxygen – it’s a really important element that pretty much every living thing needs to breathe. Yep, that includes you, your family, your pets, and all the plants, animals and people around the world – except me and the other Knowbots!
Oxygen is one of the elements on the periodic table. It was discovered around 245 years ago in 1774. At room temperature, oxygen is a gas that usually has no colour, smell or taste – so, it’s pretty much invisible. But, it’s actually all around you! In fact, oxygen makes up around 21% of Earth’s atmosphere and 50% of the Earth’s crust, and it’s one of the atoms that form water.
Oxygen is also inside you; your body’s mass consists of 65% oxygen (mostly as water), and it’s a vital element that keeps your body working. It is inhaled through your lungs before being passed to your bloodstream, where it is carried to the cells around your body. It then takes part in a chemical reaction with glucose, where it produces energy. This is called respiration. All animals, people, and plants respire, but plants do so through a process called photosynthesis ( which you can read about in Inspector Field’s report on plants!).
Without enough oxygen, you can’t survive. That’s why scuba divers, astronauts, athletes who’ve done too much exercise, and people who can’t breathe on their own need oxygen tanks. They deliver the right amount of oxygen to the body so it can keep respiring.
Oxygen is necessary for burning, too. Once a fire has been lit, oxygen helps feed its flames. For example, a candle draws oxygen from the air to keep burning. Oxygen is also used to make rocket fuel, steel, and plastic, to treat water, and to create a really hot flame to weld metal together.
Wow, what would we ever do without oxygen? I definitely would not have been put together, that’s for sure! Haha!
Periodic table - a table containing all the chemical elements, along with their chemical symbols. Room temperature - a comfortable temperature that is about the same as the room, often around 20 degrees celsius.
Atmosphere - the collection of gases that surround Earth. Learn more about the atmosphere here.
Earth’s crust - the outermost part of Earth’s shell.
Atom - the absolute smallest part of something.
Glucose - a type of sugar that is used as an energy source for many living things.
1. Earth is the only planet in our solar system to have a high percentage of oxygen.
2. Fish breathe oxygen too – they gather it from the water through their gills.
3. Earth has had oxygen for around 2.3 to 2.4 billion years out of its total 4.5 billion years of existence.
1. What year was oxygen discovered?
2. How much of the atmosphere is made up of oxygen?
3. What percentage of the human body is oxygen?
4. Name three types of people who might need oxygen tanks.
5. Fires need oxygen to burn – true or false?
Increase your knowledge by completing these activities.