Difference Between Oxidation and Reduction

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Oxidation and Reduction

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An act that changes one group of chemical constituents chemically into another is known as a chemical reaction. Chemical reactions typically involve changes that only influence the positions of electrons in the formation and dissolution of chemical bonds between atoms, with no change to the nuclei. A chemical equation commonly describes chemical processes (no change to the elements present). Nuclear chemistry is the study of chemical reactions involving unstable and radioactive elements, where both electronic and nuclear changes may occur. A chemical reaction is an action that chemically transforms one group of chemical ingredients into another. Chemical bonds between atoms are normally formed and broken through changes that only affect the locations of electrons, with no changes to the nuclei. Chemical equations are frequently used to describe chemical reactions (no change to the elements present). The study of chemical processes involving unstable and radioactive elements—where both electronic and nuclear changes may take place—is known as nuclear chemistry.

Redox reactions involve both oxidation and reduction, while non-redox reactions don't involve either of these processes. Combination, decomposition, or single displacement reactions can be used to categorize the majority of straightforward redox processes. Chemical synthesis uses a variety of chemical processes to produce the desired product. In biochemistry, metabolic pathways are collections of chemical reactions in which the products of one reaction serve as the reactants of subsequent reactions. Protein enzymes frequently catalyse these processes. Enzymes speed up biochemical reactions so that, at the temperature and concentrations found inside a cell, metabolic syntheses and decompositions that would normally be impossible can take place. The quantum field theory, which describes nuclear reactions, radioactive decay, and interactions between elementary particles, has expanded the definition of a chemical reaction to include interactions between things smaller than atoms.

The oxidation states of the reactants change during redox reactions, which are oxidation-reduction chemical processes. Reduction-oxidation is referred to scientifically as redox. All redox processes fall into one of two categories: reduction reactions or oxidation reactions. The redox reaction commonly referred to as the oxidation-reduction reaction typically involves both oxidation and reduction reactions occurring simultaneously. The substance that is being reduced in a chemical reaction is referred to as a reducing agent, while the substance that is being oxidized is referred to as an oxidizing agent. A chemical process in which electrons are moved between two reactants is referred to as a redox reaction. The alteration in the oxidation states of the reacting species can be used to pinpoint this electron transfer. When a reactant loses electrons, its oxidation state increases, which is referred to as oxidation. Gaining electrons and reducing a reactant's oxidation state is the process of reduction. Electron-accepting substances known as oxidizing agents commonly see a drop in redox processes. A chemical that regularly gives electrons is referred to as a reducing agent. These species oxidize frequently. The two subtypes of redox reactions that can be distinguished are oxidation and reduction half-reaction. Understanding redox reactions as the transfer of electrons from one species (reducing agent) to another (oxidizing agent). The former species is oxidized while the latter is reduced throughout this process. These descriptions are not exact, yet are adequate for many uses.

A better way to characterize oxidation and reduction is as changes in the oxidation states of the atoms. Although in reality, an electron transfer will always result in a change in the oxidation state, many reactions are nevertheless categorized as "redox" even though no electron transfer takes place (such as those involving covalent bonds). The electrolytic electrochemical processes, which utilise electrons from the power source at the negative electrode as the reducing agent and electron withdrawal at the positive electrode as the oxidizing agent, are significant redox reactions. For the creation of chemical components like chlorine or aluminium, these reactions are especially crucial. Batteries make use of the reversible process, which involves the release of electrons in redox reactions to transform chemical energy into electrical energy. For some main-group elements, it is possible to anticipate how many electrons will be given or received in a redox reaction using the electron configuration of the reactant element. Alkali metals and halogens will each contribute and take one electron when elements try to achieve the low-energy noble gas structure. Noble gases have zero chemical activity on their own. By combining the oxidation and reduction half-reactions and multiplying by coefficients, the entire redox reaction will be balanced so that the number of electrons obtained in reduction equals the number of electrons lost in oxidation.

Oxidation vs. Reduction

Oxidation and reduction are two crucial chemical processes that constantly occur in our environment. It is known as oxidation when a covalent molecule loses electronics and gets more positively charged. The process of reduction is the reverse of oxidation since a chemical acquires electronics and increases its negative charge. Since the transfer of electrons between chemical species occurs during reduction and oxidation, these reactions are more commonly referred to as redox reactions (one loss and one gain).

The major distinction between oxidation and reduction is that oxygen or hydrogen is added or taken away during oxidation. This indicates a rise in the compound's positive charge. On the other side, the reduction in the chemical reaction that occurs in opposition to oxidation in which a chemical compound gains hydrogen or electrons and sees a rise in its negative charge.

Difference Between Oxidation and Reduction in Tabular Form

Parameters of Comparison Oxidation Reduction
Definition Gaining oxygen or losing hydrogen from a substance is referred to as oxidation. Gaining hydrogen from a chemical or losing oxygen from it is referred to as reduction.
Electrons A covalent substance releases electrons into the environment during oxidation. A covalent compound gains electrons from its surroundings during reduction.
Agents Ozone and hydrogen peroxide are the most typical oxidizing agents. Compounds with metals like potassium, barium, calcium, etc. and an H ion are the most typical reducing agents.
Charge As electrons are lost during oxidation, the positive charge increases. As it gains electrons during reduction, the negative charge increases.
Oxygen Number The number of oxidations rises as a result of oxidation. Oxidation number decreases as a result of the reduction.

What is Oxidation?

An atom or molecule of a chemical species undergoes oxidation, which is a chemical reaction in which they lose one or more electrons and gain a more positive charge. The chemical species that are undergoing oxidation have a higher oxidation state and number as a result of this chemical process. Although oxygen isn't always a part of the oxidation process, sometimes it can result in the species losing electrons. The most recent definition of oxidation can be summed up as the process by which a chemical species loses electrons and turns more positively charged. Positivity doesn't always equate to having a positive charge. For instance, if the ion X4- undergoes oxidation and loses two electrons, it changes to X2-. This indicates that although it doesn't contain a positive charge, it becomes increasingly positive when the (-2) oxidation state increases over the (-4) oxidation state.

One of the earliest known oxidizing agents, oxygen gas (O2) may be found in the history of chemical processes. Oxidation was defined as a process where the presence of O2 was essential since adding O2 to a chemical reaction resulted in the loss of electrons from another chemical species. This term gained more traction when iron and water interacted to make iron oxide or rust. However, the oxidation of a chemical species can or may not include oxygen gas. For instance, even though ethanol loses an atom of hydrogen during the formation of ethanol, the reaction is still regarded as oxidation. Therefore, oxidation does not require the presence of an oxygen-rich atmosphere. Oxidation occurs whenever a chemical species loses electrons and undergoes a rise in oxidation state. The loss of electrons is the essence of oxidation. It takes place when an atom or compound loses one or more electrons. Some elements are more prone than others to lose electrons. These substances are said to oxidize quickly. Light metals like iron, magnesium, and sodium are easily oxidized. More resistant to losing electrons elements are more difficult to oxidize; they hold on to their electrons very tightly. Nitrogen, oxygen, and chlorine are nonmetals that are difficult to oxidize.

The oxidation state can theoretically be positive, negative, or zero. Although nature does not include entirely ionic bonds, it does contain numerous strong ionic bonds, making the oxidation state a reasonable predictor of charge. The formal charge or any other genuine atomic attribute of an atom is not represented by the oxidation state of that atom. This is especially true for high oxidation states, where the amount of ionization energy needed to create a multiply positive ion is much more than the amount of energy available in chemical reactions. A compound's atoms' oxidation states can also change based on the electronegativity scale that was used to calculate them. An atom's oxidation state in a chemical is thus just a formalization. However, it is important to comprehend the fundamentals of inorganic compound naming. Additionally, several chemical reaction data can be used to fundamentally explain oxidation states.

What is Reduction?

When an atom or molecule of a chemical species undergoes reduction, one or more electrons are added, increasing the negatively charged state of the atom or molecule. The chemical species that is undergoing reduction has a lower oxidation state and oxidation number as a result of this reaction. As it reduces itself and oxidizes one of the other chemical species involved in the process, an oxidizing agent goes through reduction. Reduction is the opposite of oxidation. This allows for the acquisition of the electrons lost from one chemical species by another species undergoing reduction. During reduction, an atom or molecule picks up one or more electrons, increasing its negative charge. When a species is reduced in a compound, it is level of oxidation decreases.

Once more, it is possible to be confused about whether a chemical molecule or an ion will retain a negative charge following reduction. For instance, if the ion X4+ undergoes reduction and receives two electrons, it changes to X2+. This indicates that although it doesn't contain a negative charge, it becomes more negative as (+2) the oxidation state decreases relative to (+4). Therefore, the reduction process need not result in a negative charge. A reducing agent is in charge of the transfer of an electron to a species during reduction, which denotes the gain of electrons.

Reducing or reductive compounds can reduce other substances and are referred to as reducing agents, reductants, or reducers (causing them to gain electrons). Transferring electrons to another substance causes the reductant (reducing agent) to become oxidized. Since the reducing agent donates electrons, it is sometimes referred to as an electron donor. Charge transfer complexes can also be created by combining electron acceptors and donors. The word "reduction" originally meant the weight that was lost when a metallic resource, such as a metal oxide, was heated to remove the metal. In other words, ore was "transformed" into metal. Ore was "converted" to metal in other terms. The loss of oxygen as a gas, as demonstrated by Antoine Lavoisier, was the cause of this weight loss. Later, scientists understood that this mechanism results in the metal atom gaining electrons. The term "reduction" was later broadened to refer to any process that results in an electron gain. Chemical entities that transfer the equivalent of one electron during redox reactions are referred to as reducing equivalents. The phrase is widely used in biochemistry. An electron, a hydrogen atom, or a hydride ion can all serve as reducing equivalents.

Difference between Oxidation and Reduction In Points

  • In contrast to reduction, which refers to the addition of hydrogen or the removal of oxygen from a chemical, oxidation refers to the addition of oxygen or the loss of hydrogen from a substance.
  • A covalent substance loses electrons to the environment during oxidation, whereas it gets electrons from the environment during reduction.
  • Hydrogen peroxide and ozone are frequent oxidizing agents, whereas compounds containing metals like potassium, barium, calcium, etc. and an H ion are common reducing agents.
  • Positive charge increases during oxidation as electrons are lost, whereas negative charge increases during reduction as electrons are gained.
  • In contrast to reduction, which results in a rise in oxidation number, oxidation causes a decrease in oxidation number.


Oxidation and reduction are complementary chemical reactions. Oxidation is the process of a chemical reaction where one chemical molecule releases one or more electrons. Another chemical molecule that is thought to have undergone reduction can obtain these lost electrons. The processes of oxidation and reduction are made easier by oxidizing and reducing agents, respectively. A reducing agent itself undergoes oxidation and reduces another species, while an oxidizing agent undergoes reduction and oxidizes another species. Popular examples of reducing agents include earth metals and sulphite compounds, while common examples of oxidizing agents include ozone, oxygen, halogens, etc.



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"Difference Between Oxidation and Reduction." Diffzy.com, 2024. Sun. 14 Apr. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-oxidation-and-reduction-814>.

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