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Sections14.2,17.1

RedoxReactions
Whatisaredoxreaction?
Theformalnameforaredoxreactionis"oxidationreductionreaction,"andyoucanseethat"redox"isjustshorthand
forthewordsreductionandoxidation.Thus,inaredoxreaction,twothingshappen.Youguesseditoxidationand
reduction.Thesetwohavetohappentogether.Youcannothaveanoxidationreactionwithoutacorresponding
reductionreaction.Itsabitliketheideabehindabloodtransfusionoranorgantransplant.Youcannothavea
recipientunlessyouhaveadonor,anditdoesnotmakeanysensetobeadonorunlessthereisarecipient.
Youmayhavenoticedthat"oxidation"startswiththesameprefixasoxygen,suggestingthatoxygenmaybesomehow
involvedinthisprocess.Indeed,onedefinitionofoxidationstatesthat:
Oxidationisthegainingofbondstooxygen
Organicfuelsubstances(suchaswood,coalorgas)areexamplesofcompoundsthatcanbeoxidized.Intheprocess
ofburning,thecarboninthesesubstancesbecomesbondedwithoxygen,whilesomeoftheoxygenusedto"burn"the
fuelbondstothehydrogenatomsfromthefuel.Thus,oneofthedefinitionsofreductionstatesthat:
Reductionisthegainingofhydrogen
Therefore,combustionreactionsaregoodexamplesofredoxreactionswhereonemoleculegainsoxygen(is
oxidized)andonemoleculegainshydrogen(isreduced).
Forexample,letslookatwhathappenswhengasolineinyourcarisburnedasyoudrivearoundtown(heptaneisa
commonhydrocarboncomponentofgasoline):
C7 H12
heptane

11O2

7CO2

oxygen

carbondioxide

8H2 O
water

Notehowthecarbonatomsinheptaneareoxidized(becausethecarbonatomsinheptanebecomebondedwith
oxygenatoms),whiletheoxygenisreduced(becomesbondedwithhydrogenatoms).
Thesedefinitionsofoxidationandreductionareuseful.However,moregeneraldefinitionsofoxidationandreduction
involvethemovementofelectronsbetweenthecompoundsinvolvedintheredoxreaction.Inthemostbroaddefinition
ofredoxreactions:
Oxidationisthelossofelectrons
Reductionisthegainofelectrons
Becauseelectronsarenegativelycharged,anincreaseinelectronsmeansa
decreaseinoverallcharge(thecompoundbecomesmorenegatively
charged).Ontheotherhand,anatomthatisoxidizedhasgivenupsomeof
thosenegativelychargedelectrons,whichwillincreaseitsoverallcharge(the
compoundbecomesmorepositivelycharged).Noticethatthesedefinitions
donotinvolveoxygenandhydrogen.Thus,redoxreactionscanoccurwith
compoundsthatdonotcontainoxygenorhydrogenatoms.
Aneverydayexampleofaredoxreactionthatweareallfamiliarwithisthe
processofrusting.Rustistheflakybrownsubstancethatformsonironobjectsleftexposedtotheelementsfortoo
long,especiallyiftheobjectsgetwet.Rustdoesntjustformontheironobject,theironactuallyturnsintorust(rustis
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actuallyaformofoxidizediron).
Weallintuitivelyknowthechemicalreactionofrusting:
iron

water

air

Fe

H2 O

O2

rust
Fe2 O3

Letsexaminetheoxidationandreductionreactionsthatareinvolvedintheredoxreactionofrusting.First,iron,inthe
presenceofmoisture(H2 O)willloseelectrons,becomingapositivelychargedioninwater:
Oxidationreaction:Ironisoxidized(losese)
Fe2 +(aq)+2e

Fe(s)

Thoseelectronsarethenusedtoreducetheoxygendissolvedinthewater(rememberthatwaterwillhavesome
dissolvedoxygenandalsoH+andOHions):
Reductionreaction:Oxygenisreduced(gainse)
O2 +4e+4H+

2H2 O

ThoseFe2 +ionsreactwiththeOHionsinwatertoproduceironhydroxide,whichwilldryinseveralstepstoproduce
rust:
Fe2 ++2OH

Fe(OH)2

Fe2 O3 (rust)

Noticethattheredoxreactionneedswater,whichexplainswhyamoistenvironmentspeedsuptherustingprocess.
Rustingcanoccurindryclimates,butittendstohappenmuchmoreslowlyduetotherelativelylowhumidityintheair.
Becauseitisdifficulttorememberthedefinitionsofoxidationandreductionthatinvolvethemovementofelectrons,a
commonmnemonicthatcanhelpyoukeeptheserulesinmindis:

"OILRIG"
O

Oxidation

Is

Lossofelectrons

Reduction

Is

Gainofelectrons

Thisisanespeciallyappropriatemnemonicforrememberingredoxreactionsbecausetheburningofoil(a
hydrocarbonfuel)isaredoxreaction!
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Copyright2002,JohnWiley&SonsPublishers,Inc.

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