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Redox Reactions

Prepared by Rohan Thomas


Whenever oxidation take places in a system similarly reduction will always takes places in the
system. Redox reaction is the simultaneous process of both reduction and oxidation in the
system. We can say that Chemistry is essentially a study of redox systems.

Classical idea of redox reaction  


The term oxidation is named under oxygen is because around ~20% in the atmosphere contains
oxygen and most of the elements are able to combine with it. But oxidation not only undergoes
with oxygen but also with electronegative elements.

Oxidation is defined as the addition of oxygen/electronegative element to a substance or removal
of hydrogen/ electropositive element from a substance.

Let’s see some of the example of oxidation reactions,

1. 2Mg (s) + O2 (g) → 2MgO (s)

2. 2H2S (g) + O2 (g) → 2S (s) + H2O (l)

3. Mg (s) + Cl2 (g) → MgCl2 (s)


Reduction is the removal of oxygen/electronegative element from a substance or addition of

hydrogen or electropositive element to a substance.

for example,

1. 2HgO (s) Δ → Hg (l) +O 2 (g) / Removal of oxygen from mercuric oxide

2. FeCl3(aq) + H2 (g) → 2FeCl2 (aq) + 2HCl (aq) / Removal of electronegative element


Oxidation Number
Oxidation number or state is a number assigned during chemical reaction depending on the
electrons gained or loosed while in the reaction. The oxidation number could be either positive,
negative or zero.

Rules for Determination of Oxidation Number

There are few rules which involve in determining the oxidation state. Let’s walk through it.

Rule 1
The oxidation number of an element at its elemental state or present in free the oxidation
number will be always “0”. Which means each atom in O3,H2, Na, Cl2, Mg, etc. will be “0”.
Rule 2

This rule states that the charge of an ion is always equals to its oxidation state. Which means
Mg2+ will be having oxidation state +2, Na+ will be having an oxidation of +1, Cl- is having an
oxidation state of -1. This rule will be applicable to all ions.

Rule 3

The oxidation state of Oxygen will be -2 in almost all cases but there are exceptions in case of
peroxides, superoxides, and oxygen bonded with fluorine.

Rule 4

Almost all cases the oxidation number of Hydrogen is +1 in some exceptions the for instance,
NaH, CaH2, LiH. In all the examples the oxidation state of hydrogen is will be -1.

Rule 5

When halogens are present as halide ions in compound form there will oxidation state will be
always -1, but chlorine, bromine, and iodine while combing with oxygens will be having a +1
oxidation number eg, oxyanions, oxyacids.

Rule 6

metallic elements will have positive oxidation state whereas nonmetallic element will have
negative oxidation state.

Oxidation number trends in periodic table 

1. The oxidation number of a Group 1 element in a compound is +1.

2. The oxidation number of a Group 2 element in a compound is +2.

3. The oxidation number of a Group 17 element in a binary compound is -1.


Q1. Find oxidation number of Cr2 in the formula K2Cr2O7 (NCERT)

Solution: K2= +2; O7= (-2 × 7); Cr2= 2 × x

Therefore, 2+ 2x-14=0. Thus x=+6 (Oxidation state of chromium)

Redox reactions based on Electron Transfer Reaction


Electron transfer while burning magnesium in presence of oxygen

The above reaction is a typical example of a redox reaction, in the reaction magnesium (Mg) is
burned in the presence of Oxygen and Magnesium donated two electrons then becomes 2+
whereas oxygen accepted two electrons and become 2-.

Let’s take sodium chloride for explaining the concept. We all know that type of bond between
NaCl are ionic bond, therefore we can write Na+Cl- and (Na+)2 S2-


Transfer of electrons in Nacl

The reaction will be like,

2Na (s) "→ 2Na+(g) 2e-

Cl2(g) + 2e- →
" 2Cl-

Here the half in which loss of electrons involves it is known as oxidation reaction similarly the
half where gain of electrons involves is reduction.

Oxidation : Loss of electron(s) of any species

Reduction : Gain of electron(s) of any species

Oxidising Agent : Acceptor of electron(s)

Reducing Agent : Donor of Elector(s)

Competitive Electron Transfer Method

This reaction is called as competitive electron method because there is a competition between the
elements for release of electrons. Just like the displacement reactivity series here it is
Zn>Cu>Ag, the name of this series is called as electrochemical series or metal activity series.

Let’s make it more clear,

Here in the above reaction as Zn is more reactive in the metal reactive series therefore Zn release
its electrons first.

Types of Redox Reactions

Redox reactions can be primarily classified into five different types:

• Combination Reactions

• Decomposition Reactions

• Displacement Reactions

• Disproportionate Reactions

Let’s discuss all them,

Combination Reactions
In the method, the reaction involves the breakdown of a compound into different compounds in
the form of AB→A+B
1. 2NaH → 2Na+H2

2. 2H2O → 2H2+O2

3. Na2CO3 → Na2O+CO2

All these reactions are breaking down of a single compound into different compounds.

Decomposition Reaction
This method is just negative of the combination method, which means combination of two
compounds to form single compounds in the form of A+B→AB
Let’s look some examples,

H2 + Cl2→ 2HCl
C + O2→ CO2
4Fe + 3O2→2Fe2O3

You can see that all the reaction are in the form of A+B→AB

Displacement Reaction

In this method an atom or an element is replaced by an atom or an element of an another
element. The reaction will be in the form of X+YZ→XZ+Y

Displacement Reactions are classified again into two,

1. Metal displacement,

2. Non-metal displacement.

Metal Displacement

Just like the word meaning displacing metals, In this type a metal present in a compound is
displaced by an another metal. Have a look at the example of metal displacement reaction

CuSO4+Zn "→ Cu+ZnSO4

Non-metal Displacement
In this type either a metal or a non-metal will displace another non-metal of a compound present
in the reaction. Hydrogen will be displaced in most cases but very rarely oxygen is also


Non-metal displacement


Non-metal displacement

Disproportionate Reaction
A reaction in which the same species is both oxidized and reduced in a same reaction. This
reaction will only occur if any one of the element in the reaction is having all the three oxidation


Here you can see that oxygen is possessing all the three oxidation state in the reaction.
Balancing an equation
There are two methods to balance a redox reaction,

1. Oxidation Number Method

2. Half Reaction Method

Let’s discuss the first method of equation balancing,

Oxidation Number Method

Oxidation Number Method of redox equation balancing involves these steps,

• Correct formula should be written for both reactant and product.

• Assign the oxidation number to all the elements present in the reaction and hence identify
the atoms that will undergo a change in oxidation number.

• Increase or decrease of oxidation number should be calculated.

• Make the total ionic charges of reactant and product equal by adding H+ or OH– when the
reaction is taking place in water.

• Hydrogen atoms in the reaction are made equal by adding H2O molecule either to reactant
side or product side.

Half reaction method

The steps which include in the method are -

• Put the unbalanced equation in the ionic form for the given reaction.

• Divide the equations into half reactions: Oxidation half and reduction half
• For reactions occurring in acidic medium, add H2O to balance O atoms and H+ to balance
H atoms.

• Balancing of charges should be done by adding electrons

• Add the two half-reactions when the number of electrons exchanged is equal to form a
redox reaction.

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