What Are Oxidizing and Reducing Agents


An oxidizing agent is a substance that is reduced in a chemical reaction ,thereby bringing about oxidation, while a reducing agent is oxidized thereby, bringing about reduction. E. g.

CuO + CO  –}  Cu + CO2

In the equation above :

1.CuO loses oxygen to CO to become , and it is therefore reduced.

2.CO gains O to become CO2, and therefore it is oxidized.

3.The CuO is reduced by the CO and thus CO is the reducing agent.

4.The CO is oxidized by the CuO and thus CuO is the oxidizing agent.

An oxidizing agent is a substance that accepts electrons, while a reducing agent is one that donates electrons. An oxidizing agent is also a substance in which the oxidation number decreases in the positive direction, while reducing agent is one in which the oxidation number increases in the positive direction.

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A substance can act as both oxidizing and reducing agents depending on the reaction conditions. For example; water, acting as an oxidizing agent, oxidises carbon and as a reducing agent, it reduces fluorine.

Common oxidizing agents : fluorine, chlorine, bromine, ozone, oxygen, acidified KMnO4, Mercury (II) Chloride, acidified K2Cr2O7 [potassium heptaoxodichromate(II)], MnO4 [Manganese(IV)oxide] , concentrated HNO3, Hot concentrated H2SO4, H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide).

Common reducing agents : sodium, potassium, magnesium, hydrogen, carbon, NH3 (ammonia), CO [carbon(II)oxide], H2S (hydrogen sulphide), SO2 [sulphur (IV) oxide] , all metal, iron(II) salts.

Tests for oxidizing agents :

1.They liberate chlorine from hydrogen chloride.

2.Most oxidizing agents liberate iodine from acidified potassium iodide solution (KI).

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3.They turn freshly prepared acidified solution of green Fe²+ to brown or dirty yellow Fe³+.

4.They liberate whitish-yellow deposit of sulphur from hydrogen sulphide (H2S).

Tests for reducing agents.

1.They change brown solutions of Fe³+ to green Fe²+ .

2.They turn purple color of acidified KMnO4 to colorless.

3.They turn orange color of K2Cr2O7 to green.

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