What Is Oxygen Used For? An Overview Of Modern Oxygen Use
Oxygen is a chemical element crucial to all forms of life. By mass, oxygen is the third most plentiful element after hydrogen and helium.
Although we think of oxygen just for breathing, it has many uses in modern human existence. The human relationship with oxygen has evolved from just breathing it to using it to heal our bodies and as a tool in various industries.
The uses for oxygen are varied and range from basic science like starting a fire to using oxygen to work with materials like diamond.
What’s the difference between Oxygen & Ambient Air?
When people ask what is oxygen used for, they’re generally referring to the endless gasses that surround us at any given moment. However, the air surrounding you is only about 20% oxygen. The rest of the air is 78% nitrogen and minuscule amounts of Carbon Dioxide, Argon, and other gasses.
So, when discussing what is oxygen used for, we’re referring to pure oxygen without any other chemical elements.
How do you make oxygen?
The most common source of oxygen is photosynthesis. Plants release oxygen as a result of the photosynthesis process, which is how oxygen is so naturally abundant in our environment.
Businesses that work with oxygen create it using cryogenic distillation or vacuum swing absorption processes. These are scientific processes that we use to make oxygen for commercial use.
Another way we’ve learned how to create pure oxygen is by using oxygen concentrators. Oxygen concentrators take ambient air and separate nitrogen and other gasses to generate pure oxygen. Oxygen concentrators do this by running air through a device known as a Molecular Sleeve, which filters air to create oxygen.
Now that you know what oxygen is, and how it’s made; what is oxygen used for?
Oxygen therapy is the process of re-oxygenating a person’s blood by having them inhale oxygen. When you have low oxygenated blood, you experience symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath.
Oxygen therapy is a treatment method for conditions such as COPD, pneumonia and severe asthma.
Oxygen in skilled professions
Oxy-fuel welding and oxy–fuel cutting are examples of ways humans make use of oxygen as a tool. Why use oxygen instead of air to start the flame? By using pure oxygen instead of air, the flame becomes hot enough to work with steel, glass, jewelry and other strong materials.
Oxy-fuel equipment is extremely versatile, and its uses expand many industries. These tools can loosen corroded nuts and bolts, cut ferrous metals and facilitate the water welding process. Oxy-fuel equipment is a popular tool in the automotive collision industry, the glass industry, and many other specialized fields.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is an alternative form of medical treatment that works by enhancing your body’s natural healing processes. This therapy works by enclosing you in a chamber where the air is 100% oxygen.
Normally, red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout your body. With hyperbaric oxygen therapy, all your bodily fluids, lymph systems, and even your bones absorb extra oxygen. The idea behind this therapy is to get oxygen to reach every single part of your body, which speeds your body’s ability to heal.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a method for treating carbon monoxide poisoning, decompression sickness, thermal burns and many other conditions.
All in all, oxygen is an incredibly useful chemical. Oxygen is highly oxidizing, which means it readily accepts electrons from other substances during reactions. This makes oxygen an excellent accelerant for combustion or biological activity.
Because of oxygen’s reactivity, humans continue to find new ways to use oxygen both for health and in business!