# What if I pumped pure oxygen into my car engine instead of using the air in the atmosphere?

The internal combustion engine in most cars burns gasoline. To do the burning, an engine needs oxygen, and the oxygen comes from the air all around us. But what if cars carried their own and pumped pure oxygen into the engine instead?

The air around us is about 21 percent oxygen. Almost all the rest is nitrogen, which is inert when it runs through the engine. The oxygen controls how much gasoline an engine can burn. The ratio of gas to oxygen is about 1:14 -- for each gram of gasoline that burns, the engine needs about 14 grams of oxygen. The engine can burn no more gas than the amount of oxygen allows. Any extra fuel would come out of the exhaust pipe unburned.

So if the car used pure oxygen, it would be inhaling 100 percent oxygen instead of 21 percent oxygen, or about five times more oxygen. This would mean that it could burn about five times more fuel. And that would mean about five times more horsepower. So a 100-horsepower engine would become a 500-horsepower engine!

## The problem with oxygen

So why don't cars carry around pure oxygen? The problem is that oxygen is pretty bulky, even when you compress it, and an engine uses a LOT of oxygen. A gallon of gasoline weighs 6.2 pounds, so the engine needs 86.8 pounds of oxygen (6.2 x 14) per gallon of gasoline. Oxygen is a gas, so it is extremely light. One pound of oxygen fills 11.2 cubic feet of space, so a gallon of gasoline needs 972.16 cubic feet of oxygen to go with it. If your gas tank holds 20 gallons of gasoline, you would have to carry almost 20,000 cubic feet of oxygen with it! This is a lot of oxygen - so much that it would fill a 2,500 square foot house.

Even if you compress the oxygen to 3,000 psi (pounds per square inch), it will still take 100 cubic feet to store it. To put that into perspective, a standard scuba tank holds about 80 cubic feet of gas, so it would take 250 scuba tanks to hold all that oxygen.