What is the composition of air?
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Q:

What is the composition of air?

A:

Quick Answer

Air is a gaseous substance that is composed primarily of nitrogen, oxygen and argon. The air in the atmosphere that surrounds the Earth is approximately 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen and 1 percent argon, with the remainder made up of various other gases including neon, helium and hydrogen.

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Full Answer

Although the proportion of gases found in air does not change as one moves further from the Earth's surface, the density of the air does. This means that there are fewer molecules of nitrogen, oxygen, argon and other gases a mile above the Earth's surface than an inch above it, but the same ratio of gases.

Some natural and unnatural non-gaseous particles are also found in the atmosphere, especially in the portions closest to the Earth's surface. These include volcanic ash, aerosol pollutants such as chlorine and mercury, pollen, and mold spores. The levels of these substances in the air tend to vary by location and with the seasons.

Air pollution is defined as the introduction of chemicals, particulate or biological matter into the air. This is typically considered a problem because it reduces the levels of ozone, an oxygen species, in the stratosphere. With less ozone in the atmosphere, the sun's harmful UV rays can more easily reach the Earth's surface, contributing to problems such as skin cancer and global warming.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Which elements make up the air we breathe?

    A:

    Air is made up of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. It consists of approximately 78 percent nitrogen, 20 percent oxygen and trace amounts of carbon dioxide.

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  • Q:

    What is the most abundant element in air?

    A:

    The most abundant element present in air is nitrogen, which comprises about 78.1 percent of the air on Earth. The second-most abundant element is oxygen, at about 20.9 percent of air's makeup. Together, the elements nitrogen and oxygen account for 99 percent of the chemical composition of air.

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  • Q:

    What are the names of gases?

    A:

    Some names of gases include hydrogen, helium, oxygen, argon, krypton, neon, nitrogen, fluorine, chlorine, xenon and radon. Gases that are compounds include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and hydrogen sulfide. Other types of gases include vapor and steam.

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  • Q:

    What is the percentage of gases in the stratosphere?

    A:

    The stratosphere is a layer of the atmosphere that consists of nearly 19 percent of the atmosphere's gases, which are nitrogen, oxygen, argon and trace elements like neon and helium. The atmosphere consists of five layers, and its gas composition is 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen and 0.9 percent argon.

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