Difference Between Air and Oxygen

Air and oxygen are two different things that are often confused. Although they both are related to breathing, they have distinct differences. In this essay, we will discuss the differences between air and oxygen.

What is Air?

Firstly, air is a mixture of several gases such as nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide. It is composed of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and the remaining 1% is carbon dioxide and other gases. Air is essential for life as it provides oxygen to the body which is necessary for breathing. In addition, air also plays a crucial role in regulating the temperature and humidity of the Earth's atmosphere. It also helps in the process of photosynthesis, which is a necessary process for the survival of plants.

Secondly, air is a mixture of gases, while oxygen is a pure chemical element. Oxygen is produced through the process of photosynthesis by plants and algae. On the other hand, air is produced through the movement of air masses, which can be influenced by various factors such as temperature, pressure, and humidity.

Thirdly, air contains other gases besides oxygen, such as nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and other trace gases. These gases are essential for the survival of the Earth's ecosystem. Nitrogen is required for the growth of plants, while carbon dioxide is necessary for photosynthesis. However, oxygen is the only gas that is essential for human survival.

What is Oxygen?

Oxygen is a chemical element and a gas that is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. It is the third most abundant element on Earth, and it is essential for life. Oxygen makes up approximately 21% of the Earth's atmosphere, and it is necessary for breathing. It is also required for the process of combustion, which is essential for energy production.

Combustible substances like wood burn with much more brightness and vigorously than in air, as only 1/5th of air is composed of oxygen.

Differences: Air and Oxygen

The following table highlights the major differences between Air and Oxygen −





It is defined as a combination of multiple gases present in different quantities in the atmosphere.

Oxygen is a chemical element present on the Periodic Table of Elements. It is represented by formulae O2 and its atomic number is 8. It was discovered independently by both Joseph Priestly and by Carl Scheele.

Oxygen is a critical and vital ingredient that fuels the cells in our body.


Air comprises of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 4% water vapour and 1% argon. In addition, carbon dioxide, methane, helium and neon contribute 345, 1.7, 5 and 8 parts per million, respectively.

At lower concentrations, nitrous oxide, ozone and chlorinated fluorocarbons are also found. Air is slightly lighter than oxygen.

Molecular oxygen contains diatomic oxygen molecules. Oxygen is number 8 on the periodic table, which means that it has 8 electrons and 8 protons.

Only a handful of elements, including hydrogen and helium, are lighter. It possesses a cubic structure. Oxygen is guaranteed to be at least 95% pure oxygen.


  • Air is everywhere around us and it isn’t just a gas. Air is very important for all living beings. Plants and animals need air to breathe.

  • When animals and human beings breathe, an odourless gas called carbon dioxide is exhaled out. Carbon dioxide is good as well as bad. Plants make use of this carbon dioxide to make food and oxygen as well. The process is termed as photosynthesis. Huge amounts of carbon dioxide are generated when fossil fuels are burned. This is bad because carbon dioxide is the major contributor to human caused global warming.

  • Air is also important in terms of holding water and controlling the process of humidity

  • Air present in the atmosphere protects us from meteoroids. When meteoroids come in contact with our atmosphere, air causes them to burn into tiny pieces before reaching the earth surface

  • The air also acts as insulation, helping the Earth from getting too cold or too hot

  • Another gas present in air called Ozone, protects us from too much sunlight

  • Air plays an important role in recycling one of Earth’smost vital substances called as carbon

  • Air is responsible for carrying sound waves from one point to another. Eliminate air, and no one will ever hear any sound that moves between locations

  • Oxygen is needed for nearly every mechanism within human body. Optimal levels of oxygen in the body ensures good health and well-being

  • Oxygen tanks are used in medicine to treat people with breathing problems and as life support for scuba divers and astronauts and

  • Oxygen is used in the metal- mechanic industries for casting materials and welding made of steel and iron

  • It is also used in the oxidation of the natural gas, production of synthesis gases, and for decreasing water vapor by the carbon

  • Oxygen provides the pressure necessary for aeroplane. Submarines make use of other form of oxygen – hydrogen peroxide, (H2O2) when starting their engines; Some submarine torpedoes also discharge from these machines using oxygen

  • Rockets make use of liquid oxygen as an oxidizer

Colour and Odour

Depending on the composition of air, it can have an odour and a specific colour

Oxygen is a colourless gas without taste or odour


In conclusion, air and oxygen are two different things that are often confused. Air is a mixture of several gases, while oxygen is a pure chemical element. Oxygen is essential for human survival, while air is necessary for the survival of the Earth's ecosystem. It is important to understand the differences between air and oxygen to fully appreciate their importance in our daily lives.

Updated on: 30-Mar-2023


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