The Chemistry of Oxygen Atoms
Organisms bond atoms together to form molecules
Organisms break molecules apart to release atoms
Oxygen atoms can exist by themselves or as molecules
O atomic oxygen Not stable. Instantly combines with other O atoms to make O2
O2 molecular oxygen. Very stable. This is what we breathe.
O3 ozone. Stable just for a minute.
High in the atmosphere, it’s good to have ozone – it blocks (most of) the Sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. This protects us from getting skin cancer. But down here at the Earth’s surface, we don’t want much ozone as it irritates ours lungs and nose.
How is ozone made? Let’s follow this diagram.
We see that it starts when electrical activity in the atmosphere – lightning – breaks down O2 molecules.
How does chlorine degrade the ozone layer? Read about the ozone layer and CFCs