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Difference Between Oxidation and Reduction

redoxOxidation vs Reduction
In organic and inorganic chemistry, there are many chemical reactions that take place when two molecules are introduced to one another. When molecules react and this reaction causes them to gain or lose electrons it is said that a redox reaction has taken place. Technically a redox reaction changes the oxidation state of a molecule. However, there is simpler terminology available to explain this phenomenon.

Redox reaction is short for reduction-oxidation reaction. Essentially, a reduction reaction occurs when a molecule gains electrons. An oxidation reaction occurs when a molecule looses electrons. Redox reactions are always balanced equations. When a molecule looses one electron, that electron then shifts to the neighboring molecule. Oxidation stands for a loss and reduction for a gain. This process is taking place all the time, in a variety of different ways.

Places You Can Witness a Redox Reaction

  • A cut apple browning on a counter top
  • A rust spot growing on a car bumper
  • A log burning in a fire
  • A plant engaging in photosynthesis
  • A root fixing nitrogen to itself so it will gain nutrients

Common Cases of Reducing Agents
When reduction occurs to metal we often call it corrosion. All metals can be a reducing agent and give up its electrons.
Active metals ‘“ reducing agents that easily give up electrons
Inactive metals ‘“ reducing agents that rarely give up electrons
Common active metals are: iron, zinc, aluminum, chromium, and magnesium. They can be easily reduced through contact with air, water, or other metals.
Rusting ‘“ corrosion or reduction that creates a crumbly substance called iron oxide. The more reduction reactions, the more the substance is eaten away by iron oxide.
Galvanization ‘“ protecting iron with a layer or zinc. Zinc also reduces to zinc oxide, but this oxide is not crumbly and will protect the inner layers of the metal.

Common Cases of Oxidizing Agents
Bleach ‘“ oxidizes when it reduces the electrons of stains. These partially broken-down stains are then easier to remove.
Hydrogen peroxide ‘“ is an oxidizing agent that removes electrons from the pigment of your hair and causes it to bleach out.
Ozone ‘“ is one of the strongest oxidizing agents. It removes electrons from most natural and man-made products, causing them to deteriorate faster. It is also thought to break down the cells in your body in such as way as to stimulate the growth of cancer cells.

1. A redox reaction is composed of one molecule reducing the number of its electrons while an adjacent molecule gains that same number of electrons.
2. Redox reactions take place all around us, every single day.
3. Metal is the most common reducing agent and produces oxides as it corrodes.
4. Bleach, peroxide, and ozone are all oxidizing agents that begin to break down the substances they contact.

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1 Comment

  1. I know this is nit picking, but in paragraph 2, the word is “lose,” not “loose,” when a molecule gives up electrons. The two words are frequently misused. Perhaps you could add this as a topic to your web site. 🙂

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