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Living things require oxygen for their respiration purposes as well as other body processes. In the air, oxygen is the second largest component at approximately 21 percent by volume. Nevertheless, through distillation processes, oxygen in the air can be converted into a liquid through cooling. Liquid oxygen is pale blue in color and exceedingly cold. It readily reacts with almost all types of organic substances (CCPS, 2010, p. 21). In this respect, liquefied oxygen plays a crucial role in propulsion and launching space rockets. In some instance, liquid oxygen is used in explosive, though it is rarely used, as it is a volatile material (Mallick, 2013, p. 9). Most notably, in case there is contact between oxygen and organic substance like asphalt, it easily ignites fire and explodes.
Liquefied oxygen is distilled from the air and subjected to particularly cooler temperatures. Oxygen has a boiling point of – 183o C therefore; it is kept in insulated huge tanks to prevent it from vaporizing. The main purpose of liquefied oxygen is in propulsion systems such as rocket (CCPS, 2010, p. 21). In addition, many health facilities are storing it in order to save lives of their patients.
Liquid oxygen is one of the most volatile substances. Furthermore, it is an exceptionally concentrated substance. However, it is inflammable but increases the rate of combustion. Because it is highly volatile, it has to be a mixture of ozone and other rare gases in order to make stable prior to its use in propulsion (Mallick, 2013, p. 19).
In particular, liquid oxygen is extremely hazardous after reacting with organic materials. The likelihood of causing an explosion is significantly high if it spills on materials such as asphalt. Similarly, liquid oxygen is enormously hazardous to grease and oil. It is responsible of accelerating combustion after reacting with grease and oil (CCPS, 2010, p. 24). Therefore, it offers extra risks if it spills on asphalt. For instance, vehicles travelling near asphalt may drip grease or oil and ignite fire. It leads to explosion and death of people near the area.
After spillage of liquid oxygen, it vaporizes into the air because the atmospheric temperatures are too hot to remain in liquid state. In the process of vaporization, it forms a condensed mist of concentrated oxygen. Any individual passing nearby will be affected as oxygen infects the clothes (CCPS, 2010, p. 23). In addition, it easily saturates into organic materials such as asphalt. These two circumstances cause huge problems to the persons and the environment. The cloud of oxygen increases the rate of combustion. Therefore, an individual exposed to liquefied oxygen could easily catch fire by cigarette smoking following exposure (Mallick, 2013, p. 17). If an automobile passes near asphalt that has liquid oxygen, it causes a massive explosion of the tires because the asphalt has been concentrated with oxygen.
Therefore, in case of liquid oxygen spillage, it is very crucial to initiate precautionary measures to evade hazardous situations. Persons who have exposure to liquid oxygen should move to open places to ventilate their clothes. In addition, they should avoid smoking or exposure of any fire source for more than 15 minutes. When there is exposure of liquid oxygen to asphalt, the place should be secured for more than half an hour (CCPS, 2010, p. 25). Nobody should be permitted to pass or drive over in the areas because it is a hazardous environment. Moreover, instruments for storage of oxygen should be made of materials that are non-reactive to it.
(CCPS), C. (2010). Guidelines for Safe Storage and Handling of Reactive Materials. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Mallick, R. (2013). Pavement Engineering. CRC Press.