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oxygen

Natural Occurrence and Preparation

Oxygen is the most abundant element on earth, constituting about half of the total material of its surface. Most of this oxygen is combined in the form of silicates, oxides and water. It makes up about 90% of water, two thirds of the human body and one fifth by volume of air. It is found in the sun, and has a role in the stellar carbon cycle (see nucleosynthesis). Oxygen is prepared for commercial use by the liquefaction and fractional distillation of air and more expensively by the electrolysis of water; it is stored and transported under high pressure in steel cylinders. It can also be obtained by heating certain of its compounds, such as barium peroxide, potassium chlorate, and the red oxide of mercury.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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