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Composition and Chemical Formula for Air

Last updated date: 21st May 2024
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What is a Chemical Formula?

The chemical formula is a symbolic representation of the available compositions of various elements present in an atom or molecule. For this symbolic representation, we use numbers, parenthesis, and chemical element symbols. It is different from structural formulas.

What is Air?

The atmosphere of the earth is filled with a mixture of gases. It is air, which helps animals, plants, and human beings to live. Air surrounding us is a mixture of several gases ranging from nitrogen in larger quantities to argon which constitutes a minor percentage of air. This composition is not fixed and exact; it is just an approximate value and changes from place to place. Apart from this, a gas occurring in different places in the air has different effects. For example, ozone that is far from the earth’s surface is a protection to the earth from the harmful UV rays, and if the same ozone occurs nearer to the earth’s atmosphere, it is a threatening issue to the environment.

We have various levels of the atmosphere called the troposphere, mesosphere, stratosphere, thermosphere, etc. Let's know more about the air and learn what the chemical formula for air is. 

Discovery of Air

Before going to know about the chemical formula of the air, let's have a quick recap on the discovery of air. Jan Baptist van Helmont in 1640, identified that a gas, CO2, was present in the atmosphere. Later, in 1674, John Mayow discovered that the air is a mixture of gases. Thereafter, Joseph Black, Daniel Rutherford, and Joseph Priestley found carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and oxygen in the air, respectively. 

Sir Henry Cavendish, John William Strut, etc., continued experimenting on air to understand more about the air, like its properties, formula, benefits, forecasting the scarcity, effects of pollution, etc., and much more.

What is the Composition and Chemical Formula for Air?

Air is a mixture of various gases present in the atmosphere. The composition majorly includes nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide. The proportions of all gases present in the air are listed below. 

  • Nitrogen - N2 - 78.084%

  • Oxygen - O2 - 20.9476%

  • Argon - Ar - 0.934%

  • Carbon Dioxide - CO2 - 0.0314%

  • Neon - Ne - 0.001818%

  • Methane - CH4 - 0.0002%

  • Helium - He - 0.000524%

  • Krypton - Kr - 0.000114%

  • Iodine - I2 - 0.000001%

  • Hydrogen - H2 - 0.00005%

  • Xenon - Xe - 0.0000087%

  • Ozone - O3 - 0.000007%

  • Nitrogen Dioxide - NO2 - 0.000002%

  • Carbon Monoxide - CO - trace

  • Ammonia - NH3 - trace

The air has no chemical formula. As it contains various gases, the chemical formula of air can't be determined. But, because of the large proportion of nitrogen in the air, its chemical formula can be used.

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Even though the air is used for breathing, we can't mention the chemical formula. But the air has 79% of nitrogen, 20% of oxygen, etc. So, the properties constituted by all the elements of air are applicable to air.

Air Pollution and Measures

Air pollution is caused when the pollutants enter the air and alter the normal air composition. Combusting fossil fuels like coal to generate electricity releases oxides of nitrogen and sulphur. They cause damage to the eyes, lungs and lead to chronic diseases. Factories release PM 2.5 and 10 which also irritates the eyes and causes smog and breathlessness. Burning the waste openly without a proper disposal system also emits lots of pollutants into the atmosphere. Following are some of the measures to control air pollution:

  • The government has issued air quality standards through a notification by NAAQS (National Ambient Air Quality Standards) and also set the sectoral emission limits. 

  • The government has issued a notification to scrap old vehicles and all the new vehicles should follow BS-VI norms of emission.

  • Air pollution devices are installed in all the major industrial corridors to monitor the pollution levels. 

  • Promotion of public transport, shifting from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources can reduce air pollution to a large extent. 

  • The government has launched the air quality index and every state should try to maintain the ambient air quality by following these guidelines and regulations.

  • Stubble burning to clear the land is to be replaced with machines that cut the grass to the root level and avoid a lot of pollution, especially in the areas of Punjab and Haryana. 


Hence, the air is the life of all living beings which has various components. But the air doesn't have a chemical formula. Its major components are carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and oxygen. Argon and other gases have their significance in the atmosphere.

FAQs on Composition and Chemical Formula for Air

1. What are the components of the air?

The air is a mixture of gases, so it has various components. They are - 

  • Carbon dioxide

  • Water vapour

  • Nitrogen

  • Oxygen

  • Argon

  • Smoke and dust particles

  • Few proportions of inert gases

2. What are the properties of air?

The properties of air are - 

  • Air is made up of molecules and atoms.

  • It is a mixture of gases.

  • Air occupies space.

  • It has a molecular weight.

  • It can be compressed.

  • The temperature and altitude have an impact on air.

  • It can exert pressure.

  • It doesn't have any colour or smell.

  • Aid also possesses an expansion property.

3. What are the effects of polluted air?

Air the life of all living beings. If the air gets polluted, it will have several adverse effects on us. The air gets polluted with the high usage of vehicles, deforestation, factories, etc. Air pollution may cause- 

  • Depletion of the ozone layer.

  • Air pollution may give rise to the greenhouse effect.

  • It may cause illness to the health of human beings.

  • Lead pollution may lead to long-term disorders.

4. How does air pollution occur?

Air pollution occurs when unnecessary pollutants enter the air surrounding us. Following are the reasons for air pollution:

  • Primary pollutants are emitted from combustion nitrogen and sulphur compounds whereas secondary pollutants are formed when two or more primary pollutants. Ozone that occurs at the ground level and air pollution caused by acid rains are the best examples of secondary air pollutants.

  • Coal-based power generation, paper, metal industries emit sulphur dioxide which results in smog, acid rains, loss of vision etc. 

  • Industries and vehicles release nitrous oxides which cause breathlessness, inflammation of the lungs etc, 

  • Pollutants released from combusting fossil fuels enter the human body and it reduces the heart’s ability to pump oxygen to various body parts. 

  • Industries emit harmful PM (particulate matter) 2.5 and 10 which leads to irritation of the eyes, breathlessness and chronic illness. 

  • Combusting fossil fuels, not cleaning the house regularly, smoking tobacco inside the house causes indoor air pollution which affects women especially. 

  • Burning the waste openly, without proper disposal is also one of the causes of air pollution. 

5. What are the uses of different gases present in the air?

Air surrounding us is a mixture of several gases like nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide etc, All these gases have a certain weightage in the composition. Their uses are mentioned below:

  • Nitrogen constitutes 78% of the air which is very important for plant growth. Plants can not directly absorb nitrogen from the atmosphere and have to take the help of the bacteria that is present in the soil to fix the nitrogen present in the atmosphere. 

  • Oxygen is the second most occurring gas, constituting 21% of the total atmosphere. Oxygen is the lifeline not only for human beings but also for all other animals. Plants absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen during photosynthesis which plays a major part in maintaining surface temperature. 

  • Carbon dioxide is another important gas constituting 0.03% of the atmosphere. Human beings emit carbon dioxide from factories, burning fossil fuels, respiration etc, this gas taps the solar energy and keeps an average surface temperature. But, when the levels of carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere, more heat energy get trapped in the earth’s surface and it increases the temperature levels, which in turn triggers disasters like melting of ice caps etc.