Which element accounts for 47% of the mass of the Earth’s crust?

Question: Which element accounts for 47% of the mass of the Earth’s crust?

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Oxygen is the element that accounts for approximately 47% of the mass of the Earth’s crust. This abundance makes it the most prevalent element in the crust, far surpassing others in terms of mass contribution. Oxygen’s predominance in the crust is due to its presence in various minerals and compounds that make up the solid surface of our planet.

Oxygen is a highly reactive element and forms compounds with almost all other elements. In the Earth’s crust, it primarily exists in the form of oxides and silicates. Silicates, which are compounds containing silicon and oxygen, are the most common minerals in the crust. Quartz (SiO₂), feldspars, and micas are typical examples of silicate minerals that illustrate the significant presence of oxygen. Oxides, such as iron oxide (Fe₂O₃) and aluminum oxide (Al₂O₃), also contribute to the high oxygen content in the crust.

The structure of silicate minerals further underscores oxygen’s abundance. Silicates form tetrahedral structures, where one silicon atom is surrounded by four oxygen atoms. These tetrahedra can link together in various configurations, forming a wide array of silicate minerals that dominate the crust. This structural role of oxygen in silicate minerals is crucial for the diversity and stability of the Earth’s crust.

The abundance of oxygen in the crust also has significant implications for geological processes and the environment. For instance, the weathering of rocks, which is essential for soil formation and nutrient cycling, involves the reaction of minerals with atmospheric oxygen and water. This process releases essential elements like potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which are vital for plant growth and ecosystem health.

Moreover, oxygen’s role extends to the interaction between the crust and the atmosphere. Volcanic activity, which brings materials from the Earth’s interior to the surface, also releases gases, including oxygen, which can influence atmospheric composition over geological time scales.

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