The Breath of Life: Air

It is a mixture of many gases like nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and water vapour. It is interesting to note that even the composition of air is the result of life on Earth. In planets such as Venus and Mars, where no life is known to exist, the major component of the atmosphere is found to be carbon dioxide. In fact, carbon dioxide (CO2) constitutes up to 95-97% of the atmosphere on Venus and Mars.

Eukaryotic cells and many prokaryotic cells, need oxygen to break down glucose molecules and get energy for their activities. This results in the production of carbon dioxide. Another process which results in the consumption of oxygen and the concomitant production of carbon dioxide is combustion. This includes not just human activities, which burn fuels to get energy, but also forest fires.

Despite this, the percentage of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is a mere fraction of a percent because carbon dioxide is ‘fixed’ in two ways : (i) Green plants convert carbon dioxide into glucose in the presence of Sunlight and (ii) many marine animals use carbonates dissolved in sea-water to make their shells.

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