The following 3 experiments can be used to determine that oxygen (O2) makes up approximately 20% by volume of air.


The copper is in excess and uses up the oxygen to form copper oxide (CuO).

All the oxygen in the air is therefore used up, and so the volume of the air decreases by about 20% (the percentage of oxygen in air).



The iron reacts with the oxygen in the air (rusting).

As long as the iron and water are in excess, the total volume of air enclosed by the apparatus decreases by about a fifth (20%) over several days.



The phosphorus is lit with a hot wire.

It reacts with the oxygen in the air and causes the water level in the bell jar to rise by about 20%.