Chem Explorers

The Power and Importance of Oxygen: Understanding Its Properties and Characteristics

Oxygen: A Vital Element for Life

Oxygen is a crucial element that is essential for life as we know it. It is an abundant element which makes up around 20% of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Oxygen is a non-metal, tasteless, colorless and odourless gas. It is highly reactive and a powerful oxidizing agent.

Exploring Oxygen’s Characteristics and Bonding Properties

In this article, we will be exploring the various characteristics of oxygen, as well as its bonding properties.

Oxygen Valency and Diatomic Molecules

Oxygen has an atomic number of 8, which means it has eight protons and eight electrons. Oxygen has a valency of two, meaning it can form a covalent bond with two other atoms.

Oxygen also occurs naturally as a diatomic molecule, meaning that two oxygen atoms bond together with a double bond to form O2. The double bond is made up of four electrons shared between the two atoms to complete their outer shells.

Triple Bond and Oxygen

While oxygen typically forms double bonds in most of its compounds, a triple bond can also be formed. A triple bond involves three pairs of electrons shared between the two atoms.

In the case of oxygen, a triple bond can be formed with another oxygen atom, creating O2. A triple bond is formed by the overlapping orbitals of the two oxygen atoms.

The overlapping orbitals result in a sigma bond, which is a covalent bond where the electrons are shared directly between the atomic nuclei. Additionally, a pi bond is formed when electrons are shared above and below the plane of the molecule.

The triple bond in O2 is incredibly strong, making the molecule highly stable.

Double Bond and Oxygen

In most cases, oxygen forms a double bond with other elements to achieve a stable octet state. This means that oxygen shares two pairs of electrons with another element to complete its outer shell.

The double bond between oxygen and another element creates a covalent bond, where the two atoms share the electrons. Stabilization occurs when the covalent bond forms between the two atoms.

The number of valence electrons in oxygen is what determines the number of covalent bonds that can be formed.

Oxygen as a Gas

Oxygen is a gas at standard temperature and pressure. At room temperature, oxygen is a colorless, odourless and tasteless gas.

Its atomic structure results in the molecule having no significant dipole moment which makes it a poor electrical conductor. Oxygen has a relatively low boiling point and is considered to be a non-flammable gas.

The gas is also denser than nitrogen, which makes it easier to isolate and separate from air.

Reactivity and Combustion

One of the most significant characteristics of oxygen is its ability to react with other elements. Oxygen reacts readily with most substances to form oxides and is considered a powerful oxidizing agent.

This property makes oxygen essential for the combustion process. In the presence of heat, a fuel source and oxygen, combustion occurs, releasing energy and creating carbon dioxide and water vapour.

Uses of Oxygen

Oxygen is essential for the process of aerobic respiration in living organisms, which provides energy to cells to carry out their functions. Oxygen is also used in various industries, including steel production, fuel production, and pulp and paper manufacturing, where the process of oxidation is crucial.

Oxygen is also used as a rocket propellant in space exploration. In the medical field, oxygen therapy is used to treat many respiratory disorders.

Oxygen is also used as an oxidizing agent in many chemical reactions.


In conclusion, oxygen is one of the most important elements on Earth, and its properties and characteristics are essential to many aspects of life. From its valency and bonding properties to its status as an oxidizing agent and combustion promoter, the role of oxygen cannot be overstated.

Its unique properties allow for its incorporation into a wide range of fields, including medicine, manufacturing, and space exploration. As such, it is critical for all of us to understand the role of oxygen in the world.

Abundance and Essentiality of Oxygen

Oxygen is an essential element that is abundant in the Earth’s atmosphere, making up approximately 21% of it. Its abundance and essentiality to life make it a fascinating topic.

As previously mentioned, oxygen accounts for about 21% of the Earth’s atmosphere by volume. Oxygen also accounts for around 46% of the Earth’s crust by weight, making it the most abundant element on Earth.

This abundance of oxygen is essential for supporting life on the planet. All living organisms require oxygen to carry out the process of respiration, which releases energy from glucose.

Oxygen is also necessary for the functioning of the ozone layer, which protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

Oxygen in Chemical Reactions

Oxygen is a highly reactive element and forms oxides with many other elements. Oxygen is found in nucleic acids such as DNA and RNA, which are critical for the maintenance of life and the passing on of genetic information.

Oxygen is also present in many inorganic and organic compounds, including carbohydrates, fatty acids, and proteins. Oxygen is a necessary component in the combustion process, which releases energy through the oxidation of a fuel source.

Oxygen is involved in many chemical reactions. In the formation of oxides, oxygen reacts with metals, nonmetals and metalloids to produce oxides.

When oxygen reacts with a metal, it forms a metal oxide, while when it reacts with a nonmetal, it forms a nonmetal oxide. This reaction results in the transfer of electrons from the metal or nonmetal to the oxygen atom.

Additionally, oxygen also plays a crucial role in acid-base reactions, where it combines with hydrogen ions to form water.

Oxygen Allotropes

Oxygen occurs naturally as a diatomic molecule, O2, which forms through the sharing of two pairs of electrons between two oxygen atoms. However, another allotrope of oxygen exists, O3, commonly known as ozone.

The production of ozone occurs through the absorption of high-energy ultraviolet radiation from the sun, which causes the O2 molecules to split, resulting in the formation of O3. Ozone is a powerful oxidant and has a blue colour and pungent odour.

Ozone has several industrial uses, including water treatment, air purification, and detection of trace amounts of gas. In addition, oxygen may also theoretically exist in the form of O4, which is a tetraoxygen allotrope consisting of four oxygen atoms.


In conclusion, oxygen is a fascinating element with an abundance and essentiality to life on Earth. Its high reactivity and involvement in many chemical reactions have led to its extensive use in various industries.

Oxygen exists in multiple forms or allotropes, including O2, O3 (ozone) and the theoretical O4, which have important properties and applications. Understanding the various facts related to oxygen will help us appreciate the importance of this element in our lives and surroundings.


  1. Q: Why is oxygen important in our atmosphere?
  2. A: Oxygen makes up approximately 21% of the Earth’s atmosphere by volume, and it’s essential to respiration for all living organisms.
  3. Q: What is the most abundant element on Earth?
  4. A: Oxygen accounts for around 46% of the Earth’s crust by weight, making it the most abundant element on Earth.
  5. Q: What role does oxygen play in chemical reactions?
  6. A: Oxygen forms oxides with many other elements, and it is involved in combustion, acid-base reactions, and the formation of inorganic and organic compounds.
  7. Q: What are the different allotropes of oxygen?
  8. A: Naturally occurring oxygen exists as O2, but there are additional allotropes in the form of O3, known as ozone, and potentially O4, tetraoxygen.
  9. Q: What industries utilize oxygen?
  10. A: Oxygen is used in a variety of industries, including steel production, fuel production, pulp and paper manufacturing, and medical applications.

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