Can oxygen be a renewable energy resource?





Question: Can oxygen be a renewable energy resource?

Answer: Oxygen itself isn’t really an energy source although it can be used in various ways to produce energy. One of the most common of these would be combustion which requires oxygen. We use the combustion of hydrocarbons like gasoline to produce energy in internal combustion engines. This process results in the splitting of the hydrocarbon molecules and recombination with oxygen. This is why cars burn gasoline and produce CO2 and H2O as waste.

Plants and other organisms eventually consume CO2 and emit oxygen back into the atmosphere. It’s difficult to say if oxygen is a renewable energy resource or not because of this. Oxygen isn’t depleted in the way that hydrocarbons like oil once altered don’t naturally reform but it also isn’t really the ultimate source of energy either. Rather it is simply a necessary component of certain processes that produce energy.

One very uncommon use of oxygen in air is in compressed air power. Water from a river can be diverted to flow down a shaft mixing with air on the way down. At the bottom of the shaft is a large chamber where the water and air separate from each other. The falling water prevents air from escaping this chamber and so the air in the chamber becomes increasingly pressurized. Another two shafts leave the chamber, one for water, one for the compressed air. This compressed air shaft can then be used to power machinery or turbines to generate electricity.

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