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4th Form

Worksheet G1.4

REDOX REACTIONS
The term "REDOX" comes from the two words REDuction and OXidation. These two
processes always go together: when one thing is oxidised, something else must be reduced.
SIMPLE DEFINITIONS
Oxidation

The gain of oxygen, e.g., magnesium burns in air to produce magnesium


oxide. All combustion reactions involve oxidation. Respiration and
rusting also involve reactions with oxygen.

Oxidising Agent

A substance which is able to oxidise other substances (it is itself reduced


in the reaction). Examples are oxygen, hydrogen peroxide, potassium
manganate (VII) and chlorine.

Reduction

The loss of oxygen, e.g. iron (III) oxide is reduced in the blast furnace to
iron metal by carbon (coke).
Reduction for metals does not always involve the oxide of the metal.
When a metal is obtained from any of its compounds (e.g. sodium from
sodium chloride) it has been reduced.

Reducing Agent

A substance which is able to reduce other substances (it is itself oxidised


in the reaction). Examples are hydrogen, carbon, carbon monoxide and
sulphur dioxide.
Chemical reducing agents (like those above) are not powerful enough to
extract the very reactive metals from their compounds. Electrolysis
provides the most drastic form of reduction, but it is a very expensive
process. It is used for the extraction of Al, Mg, Ca, Na and K metals.

QUESTIONS
In terms of oxygen, identify what has been oxidised and what has been reduced in the following
reactions.
1) S (s) + O2 (g)

SO2 (g)
oxidised = .
sulphur dioxide
reduced = ..

2) 2Al (s) + Fe2O3 (s) Al2O3 (s) + 2Fe (s)

oxidised = .
reduced = .

3) CuO (s) + H2 (g)

Cu(s) + H2O(l)

oxidised = .
reduced = .

4) CH4 (g) + 2O2 (g)


methane

CO2 (g) + 2 H2O (g) oxidised = .


reduced = .
Page 1

4th Form

Worksheet G1.4
MORE ADVANCED DEFINITIONS

The previous definitions of oxidation and reduction are easily applied to reactions where oxygen
is involved, but there are many situations where this is not the case, in particular where there are
ions. A more complete treatment of redox reactions requires us to see whether electrons have
been transferred from one atom or ion to another.
Oxidation

The LOSS of electrons, e.g., when magnesium burns, each Mg atom


gives away two electrons and Mg2+ ions are formed.

Oxidising Agent

Something which will remove electrons from something else.

Reduction

The GAIN of electrons, e.g., the oxygen atoms involved in the reaction
with magnesium pick up two electrons each and become O2- ions.

Reducing Agent

Something which will give electrons to something else.

MEMORY AID

Oxidation Is Loss
Reduction Is Gain
(of electrons)

WHERE DOES ELECTRON TRANSFER ARISE?


At GCSE there are three main areas where we find electrons being transferred: Direct reaction of a metal with a non-metal, e.g., sodium reacting with chlorine.
Displacement reactions, either between metals or between Halogens
Electrolysis (5th Form work)
Reaction of a Metal with a Non-metal
In the space below show the electron structures of a sodium atom and a chlorine atom. Show on
your diagram how electron transfer arises when these react to form the compound sodium
chloride.
SODIUM ATOM
CHLORINE ATOM

Which element is oxidised?


Which element is reduced?

Page 2

4th Form

Worksheet G1.4
Metal Displacement Reactions

A more reactive metal can displace a less reactive one from its compounds. This can happen
with metal salts in solution. We must remember that in compounds a metal is in the form of
positive ions. A metal element is made up of neutral atoms. The example below shows
magnesium metal displacing zinc from zinc sulphate solution:magnesium
metal

zinc
sulphate

magnesium
sulphate

zinc
metal

Mg (s)

ZnSO4 (aq)

MgSO4 (aq)

Zn (s)

The sulphate ion, SO42-, does not actually take any part in this reaction it is a spectator ion so
we can write an ionic equation leaving this out:Mg (s)

Zn2+ (aq)

Mg2+ (aq)

Zn (s)

It is now clearer to see that Mg atoms must have lost electrons to become Mg 2+ ions and the Zn2+
ions must have gained electrons to become neutral Zn atoms:Mg (s) Mg2+ (aq) + 2e -

and

Zn2+ (aq) + 2e -

In a displacement reaction, electrons are transferred from the


more reactive metal to the ions of the less reactive metal, as
shown in the diagram.
The more reactive metal loses electrons, so is oxidised.
The less reactive metal gains electrons, so is reduced.

Zn (s)
2+

Mg

Zn

QUESTIONS
Complete and balance the following ionic equations. In terms of electrons, decide what has been
oxidised and what has been reduced in each case.
5) Zn (s) +
Zn (s) +

CuSO4 (aq)

ZnSO4 (aq) + Cu (s)

+ Cu (s)

Oxidised =

6) Pb (s) +
Pb (s) +

2 AgNO3 (aq)
. Ag+ (aq)

Reduced =

Pb(NO3)2 (aq) + 2 Ag (s)


+ 2 Ag (s)

Oxidised =

Page 3

Reduced =

4th Form

Worksheet G1.4
Halogen Displacement Reactions

The Halogens are the elements in Group VII of the Periodic Table Fluorine, Chlorine, Bromine
and Iodine. Their atoms have 7 electrons in the outer shell and so are only 1 short of a Noble
Gas configuration. The elements exist as diatomic molecules, i.e., 2 atoms joined together by
sharing a pair of electrons in a single covalent bond (e.g., Cl 2). The atoms can pick up an extra
electron to form negative ions (e.g., Cl -). A more reactive Halogen element can displace a less
reactive one from its compounds. The example below shows chlorine displacing bromine from
potassium bromide solution.
chlorine

potassium
bromide

potassium
chloride

bromine

Cl2 (aq)

2 KBr (aq)

2 KCl (aq)

Br2 (aq)

The potassium ion, K+, is a spectator ion so we can write an ionic equation leaving this out:Cl2 (aq)

Cl

2 Br - (aq)

2 Cl - (aq)

Br

Cl

Br2 (aq)

Br
Br

Cl
Br

Cl

It is now clearer to see that Br - ions must have lost electrons to become Br2 molecules and the
Cl2 molecules must have gained electrons to become Cl - ions:2 Br - (aq) Br2 (aq) + 2e -

and

Cl2 (aq) + 2e -

2 Cl - (aq)

QUESTIONS
Complete and balance the following ionic equations.
been oxidised and what has been reduced in each case.
7) Cl2 (aq) + 2 NaI (aq)

Cl2 (aq) + .. (aq)

2 NaCl (aq)

Br2 (aq) + .. (aq)

+ I2 (aq)

.. (aq) + I2 (aq)

Oxidised =
8) Br2 (aq) + 2 KI (aq)

In terms of electrons, decide what has

2 KBr (aq)

Reduced =
+ I2 (aq)

.. (aq) + I2 (aq)

Oxidised =
Page 4

Reduced =

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