Oxygen is the third most abundant element in the universe
and makes up nearly 21% of the earth’s atmosphere. Oxygen accounts for nearly half of the mass of the earth’s crust, two thirds of the mass of the human body and nine tenths of the mass of water. Large amounts of oxygen can be extracted from liquefied air through a process known as fractional distillation. Oxygen can also be produced through the electrolysis of water or by heating potassium chlorate (KClO3).
Oxygen is a highly reactive element and is capable of combining with most other elements. It is required by most living organisms and for most forms of combustion. Impurities in molten pig iron are burned away with streams of high pressure oxygen to produce steel.
Liquid oxygen, when combined with liquid hydrogen, makes an excellent rocket fuel. Ozone (O3) forms a thin, protective layer around the earth that shields the surface from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Oxygen is also a component of hundreds of thousands of organic compounds.