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Redox Reactions Guidelines

Electrochemical reactions are also called oxidation- Here are some guidelines that you can use to figure oxidation
reduction reactions or redox reactions for short. states of chemicals.
Oxidation If you have a pure element, For example, K is a pure
The term oxidation itself now has a slightly different meaning the oxidation state is 0. element in its 0 state.
than what it originally started out with. The term oxidation
If you have an isolated ion
originally meant that something was combining with oxygen. +
that consists of one atom that Na is in a +1 state.
If potassium combined with oxygen, the potassium was
has either gained or lost Chloride ion (Cl-) has a -1
oxidized or went through the process of oxidation. So,
electrons, the oxidation state is state for the chlorine.
oxidation meant the process of becoming combined with
equal to the charge on that ion.
oxygen. When chemists started taking a look at what was
going on, they looked at what oxygen did to these chemicals In a compound more figuring In Cl2O the oxygen gets to be
that were being oxidized. They found that the oxygen was has to be done. Remember -2, then the chlorine must be
pulling electrons away from the elements. Those elements that all of the oxidation states +1 in order for the oxidation
were losing electrons to oxygen. In time the term oxidation have to add up to zero. First states of all the atoms to add
became associated with loss of electrons instead of only find the most electronegative up to zero.
combination with oxygen. So oxidation can occur with or element and give it the
without oxygen, but it must involve the loss of electrons. negative state that it wants. In Fe2O3 the oxygen gets to be
That usually works. Then -2, then the iron must be +3 in
Reduction
figure out what the other order for the oxidation states
The flip side of oxidation is reduction. If one chemical is of all the atoms to add up to
losing electrons, another is gaining them. Gaining electrons is element has to be to bring the
total to zero. zero.
called reduction. That sounds contradictory, but it should
make sense when we consider the oxidation states of the If there is more than one other
elements involved in the reaction, which we will do in a In HNO3 the oxygen gets to be
element, start with the ones
moment. -2, and we can count on the
you can count on being +1
hydrogen to be +1, then the
In order to recognize a redox reaction you have to look for because they are in group IA
nitrogen must be +5 in order
evidence that electrons have moved from one chemical to or +2 because they are in
for the oxidation states of all
another. You have to look for changes in the oxidation states group IIA. Then figure out the
the atoms to add up to zero.
of the elements involved. This requires that you be able to others.
figure out the oxidation states of elements from formulas.
The section on oxidation states gives you guidelines on how If you are dealing with a In PO43- the oxygen gets to be
to do that if you are not already familiar with it. The section polyatomic ion by itself, the -2, then the phosphorus has to
on terminology gives you some information on the meanings only change is that all of the be +5 so that the oxidation
of various terms if you are not familiar with them oxidation states have to add up states of all the atoms adds up
to the charge on the ion. to -3.
Oxidation States
Remember that elements can have various oxidation states In FeSO4 the sulfate ion has a
depending on the number of electrons that they have -2 charge, therefore the iron
If you recognize a polyatomic has to be +2 in this compound.
compared to the number of protons that are in the nucleus.
ion in the formula, it is often The oxygen gets to be -2, then
 If the number of electrons is the same as the number helpful to note it and its the sulfur has to be +6 in order
of protons, then we say that the atom is neutral and charge because that can help for the oxidation states of all
that it has an oxidation state of 0. you figure out the oxidation the atoms to add up to zero.
 If the element has reacted in a way to have gained state of the element it is
combined with. Then continue CoCO3, because carbonate is -
electrons, then it has a negative oxidation state,
with the rest as before. 2 the cobalt has to be +2. The
because the gained electrons have negative charges. oxygen is -2 and the carbon is
 If the element has reacted in a way that has caused it +4.
to lose electrons, then it has a positive oxidation
state, because it has lost negative charges.
Terminology
In this lesson we will use a number of terms with which you
need to be very careful to make sure that you use and
interpret them correctly. Sometimes you need to use the
context to get the proper meaning. For example, the phrase
"he burns" doesn't mean quite the same thing in these two
sentences: "He burns the trash." "He burns at the stake."
Four terms in particular will come up again and again and you
must be able to define and identify those four terms.
Oxidation is a process and it means the loss of electrons.
Reduction is also a process and it means the gain of electrons.
Oxidizing agents are those chemicals which cause oxidation
to occur. That does not mean that they become oxidized; it
means they cause oxidation.
Reducing agents cause reduction to occur. A reducing agent
causes something else to gain electrons.
Along with those four terms you will hear lots of other terms
associated with oxidation and reduction. Although you may
not be called upon to define those terms specifically, you will
need to understand what they mean in order to understand
questions and be able to relay your information to other
people. To assist you in this, there is a long list of terms which
are used with oxidation in example 12 in your workbook.
What follows is an expansion on that list, if you need or want state simply means how many electrons has it
more explanation than what is given in the workbook. lost or gained. If the element has lost
electrons, then it will have a positive state. If
The first one is simple. Oxidation is the it has gained electrons, that is, if it has been
process of losing electrons. reduced, then it will have a negative oxidation
state. If it has neither lost nor gained
electrons, then it will have a 0 state.
The word oxidize, however, does create some
problems in the way that our English
language works. Some verbs are transitive Oxidation number is a phrase that can be
verbs; some are intransitive. If you are not used interchangeably with oxidation state.
familiar with those terms, you can check with The only real distinction is that it refers
an English instructor; but essentially they are specifically to the number rather than the
the active and passive forms of the verbs. condition.
As pointed out in the example, oxidize can
either mean to lose electrons, Oxidizing agent is a chemical that causes
oxidation to occur.
Or, it can mean to cause the loss of
electrons.
Chemically, they are related but opposite A couple of terms that you won't run into are oxidizer
phenomena, even though they have the same and oxidizee, although in some ways they would be a
verb used to identify them. As an example, if very logical set of terms.
you say that "iron oxidizes," you mean that
There are parallel terms for reduction, which are not shown
the iron goes through the process of
here. Reduction is the process of gaining electrons. Reduce
oxidation. If you say that "oxygen oxidizes,"
means both to go through the process of reduction and to
you mean that oxygen causes the process of
cause the process of reduction to occur, and so on. There are
oxidation to occur.
parallel terms for reduction for all of these terms except
There's quite a difference between being oxidation state and oxidation number (we don't ever refer to an
oxidized and causing oxidation, but the same element's "reduction state" or its "reduction number").
verb is used. So you have to be very careful in
how you use that verb in context and also how
Practice
you interpret it when you read it or hear it.
You must pay very close attention to the
context in which it's used, and if you have any Now practice by determining the oxidation states of the
questions about it on a test or quiz or problem elements in these chemicals (which are also listed in exercise
set, ask whether that verb means to go 11 in your workbook). Check your answers below.
through the process of oxidation or to cause
the process of oxidation.
Au3+ N2 FeCl3 N2O3 NO3- PCl5 OF2 H2SO4 HNO2 MnO4-
The word oxidized has the same problem. It
can be the past tense of the verb oxidize. "The Answers
tin can oxidized" or "oxygen oxidized the tin
can." Whether you are talking about the
passive or active form makes a big difference Au3+ N2 FeCl3 N2O3 NO3- PCl5 OF2 H2SO4 HNO2 MnO4-
in terms of what is gaining electrons and what O is -2
is losing electrons. The subject of the Cl is - O is - O is - Cl is F is
O is -2 H is O is -2
sentence may be the cause of oxidation or the Au is N is 1 2 2 -1 -1
H is +1 +1 Mn is
object of oxidation, so again the context is +3 0 Fe is N is N is P is O is
S is +6 N is +7
very important. The word can also be used as +3 +3 +5 +5 +2
+3
an adjective. "Rust is one form of oxidized
iron."

Next, the terms oxidized form and oxidized


state refer to the condition of having fewer
electrons than some other form or state of the
same element. For example, sodium can exist
either as Na or as Na+. Na+ is the oxidized
form or oxidized state of sodium. Some
chemicals have three or more different
oxidation states, so when you say the oxidized
state of something like iron, you have some
choices to make. Do you mean the +2 or the
+3 state? It's obvious that you don't mean the
0 state. If you say the reduced form, you
might mean the 0 or the +2 state (but not the
+3). So these phrases can be somewhat
ambiguous.

The oxidation state is a numerical value


associated with the condition of having lost or
gained a certain number of electrons. Unlike
most of these terms, this one does not have a
corresponding reduction term. The oxidation