Oxygen and Oxygen Production

a. * Oxygen* is a colorless, tasteless, odorless gas that is slightly heavier than air. It is nonflammable but will support combustion with other elements. In its free state, oxygen is one of the most common elements. The atmosphere is made up of approximately 21 parts of oxygen and 78 parts of nitrogen, the remainder being rare gases. Rusting of ferrous metals, discoloration of copper, and the corrosion of aluminum are all due to the action of atmospheric oxygen, known as oxidation.

Production of Oxygen. Oxygen is obtained commercially either by the liquid air process or by the electrolytic process.

 In the liquid air process, air is compressed and cooled to a point where the gases become liquid. As the temperature of the liquid air rises, nitrogen in a gaseous form is given off first, since its boiling point is lower than that of liquid oxygen. These gases, having been separated, are then further purified and compressed into cylinders for use. The liquid air process is by far the most widely used to produce oxygen.

 In the electrolytic process, water is broken down into hydrogen and oxygen by the passage of an electric current. The oxygen collects at the positive terminal and the hydrogen at the negative terminal. Each gas is collected and compressed into cylinders for use.