Difference Between Air and Oxygen (With Table)

No humans would be alive if there was no air, and no humans would be alive if there was no oxygen. Given how related these terms are, and how essential they are for life, one might confuse them to be the same thing. 

Yes, air and oxygen can go together, but they are not the same. 

Air vs Oxygen

The difference between air and oxygen is that air is the collection of many elemental gases such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen. Air is also another name for the atmosphere of the Earth. On the other hand, oxygen is an element itself. Oxygen is found in the air in its gaseous form.

Comparison Table Between Air and Oxygen

Parameter of ComparisonAirOxygen (gas)
DefinitionCollection of layers of gasesA chemical element found in the periodic table
Composition78.08% Nitrogen, 20.98 % Oxygen, 0.93% Argon , 0.04% Carbon DioxideTwo molecules of oxygen (O)
Essential for survivalYes
It protects us from meteors. When they enter the air, they burn down and don’t destroy our cities.
It acts as an insulator. 
It helps in maintaining the current temperature needed for life.
The ozone layer (a part of the air) protects us from harmful ultraviolet rays.
Moreover, optimum levels of oxygen are essential if one wants to be healthy. Deep breaths do exactly this, they give our body more time to extract oxygen from the air.
Color/OdourThe color and odor depend on the composition of the airColorless and odorless
Importance for other organismsYes.
Many elements such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen are important for plants and organisms.Bacteria use nitrogen for energy and convert it to nitrates.
Plants use carbon dioxide along with sunlight to produce energy 
Oxygen is what we breathe to produce energy.
Other animals and birds also breathe oxygen. Without it, there would be no life

What is Air?

The atmosphere of Earth, which is partly responsible for life on Earth, is also known as air. Air is a mixture of gases and aerosols. Air can also contain water. If the water content in the air is too much, it makes the climate humid. 

The composition of gases in the air is – 78% Nitrogen, 21% Oxygen, 0.93% Argon, and 0.04% Carbon Dioxide. The reason behind this composition is billions of years of biochemical reactions. The air that we breathe did not contain oxygen in significant amounts until 2 billion years ago. 

The air that we can feel crashing against our bodies on a windy day is the part of an atmospheric layer that is around 8 to 14.5 kilometers high. This layer is called the troposphere. This air is also responsible for the weather.

The layers above the troposphere are what protect us from meteoroids (they burn on entering the air), harmful ultra-violet rays, and other things.

The air also acts as an insulator. It prevents the Earth from getting too warm or too cold, which is essential for survival. It also enables the sound to reach from one place to another.

What is Oxygen?

Oxygen is a pure chemical element that can be found in the periodic table. It is the 8th element in the periodic table. It is a reactive element and readily forms compounds (mostly oxides) with other elements in the periodic table. 

In the air, oxygen occurs in its gaseous form. The gaseous form of oxygen is a chemical compound made up of two oxygen molecules. This form of oxygen is what makes diverse life on Earth possible. 

Oxygen occurs in solid form too and it does so by forming oxides with other elements. For example copper oxide (the element formed from a combination of copper and oxygen).

Humans, birds, and other animals breathe oxygen gas. Without it, their bodies cannot function.

Oxygen also acts as fuel for fires. Without oxygen, we couldn’t create fires, although we won’t be alive to try. It is also used in oxidation processes and is essential for welding, cutting, and other industrial purposes. It is also used for bleaching purposes.

Ozone, a chemical compound that consists of three oxygen molecules, functions as a greenhouse gas.

Main Differences Between Air and Oxygen

  1. Air is a collection or a mixture of gases. On the other hand, oxygen is a chemical element.
  2. Air is essential for the survival of living beings. On the other hand, oxygen is essential for the survival of most living beings, but not all. Certain microorganisms such as archaea and bacterias do not need oxygen to survive.
  3. Air protects us from outside hazards such as meteoroids, ultraviolet rays, space debris, etc. It burns meteors and space debris as they try to enter Earth. The ozone layer stops UV rays from entering the Earth. On the other hand, oxygen gives us life. Every cell in the human body needs oxygen to function.
  4. Air acts as a medium of propagation for sound. On the other hand, oxygen has no effect on the propagation of sound.
  5. The quality of air can have a direct effect on our health. Bad quality air can harm our lungs and even cause lung cancer. On the other hand, the quantity of oxygen we give to our bodies also matters. If our breathing is spontaneous, our body isn’t able to absorb more oxygen, and as a result, we feel weak. Controlled breathing helps our body absorb more oxygen and helps our body function more effectively. 


Air and oxygen are two very different things. The air is a collection of gases, and oxygen is a pure chemical element whereas oxygen is found in air, in its gaseous form. 

Both of these are essential for the existence of life.


  1. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/259/5097/920.abstract
  2. https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpheart.01293.2007
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0140673697103415