Oxidation vs Reduction: Difference and Comparison

Oxidation and reduction are very important chemical reactions that take place in our surroundings all the time. When a covalent compound loses electronics, it becomes more positively charged, and the process is called oxidation. Reduction is the opposite of oxidation, as during the process, a compound gains electronics and becomes more negatively charged. Reduction and oxidation are more commonly known as redox reactions, as the transfer of electrons takes place between chemical species (one loss and one gain).

Key Takeaways

  1. Oxidation involves the loss of electrons or an increase in the oxidation state, while reduction involves the gain of electrons or a decrease in the oxidation state.
  2. Oxidizing agents accept electrons and become reduced, whereas reducing agents donate electrons and become oxidized.
  3. Oxidation and reduction reactions always coincide, forming redox reactions.

Oxidation vs Reduction

Oxidation is the chemical reaction that takes place when a molecule or an atom becomes more positively charged when it loses single or multiple electrons. Reduction is a chemical reaction that happens when an atom or a molecule loses electrons, causing it to become negatively charged.

Oxidation vs Reduction

Oxidation is a chemical reaction where an atom or a molecule of a chemical species loses electrons (one or more) and becomes more positively charged. This chemical reaction increases the oxidation state and oxidation number of the chemical species that is undergoing oxidation. Oxygen is not always involved in the process of oxidation, but sometimes it can cause the species to lose electrons. 

Reduction is a chemical reaction where an atom or a molecule of a chemical species gains electrons (one or more) and becomes more negatively charged. This chemical reaction decreases the oxidation state and oxidation number of the chemical species that are undergoing reduction. An oxidizing agent undergoes reduction as it oxidizes another chemical species involved in the reaction and reduces itself. 

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonOxidationReduction
DefinitionOxidation refers to the gain of oxygen or loss of hydrogen from a compound. Reduction refers to the gain of hydrogen or loss of oxygen from a compound. 
ElectronsIn oxidation, a covalent compound releases electrons to the surrounding.In reduction, a covalent compound gains electrons from the surrounding.
AgentsThe common oxidizing agents are hydrogen peroxide and ozone. The common reducing agents are compounds that contain metals like potassium, barium, calcium, etc and an H ion.
ChargeIn oxidation positive charge increase as it loses electrons. In reduction negative charge increase as it gains electrons.  
Oxidation NumberOxidation leads to an increase in oxidation number.Reduction leads to a decrease in oxidation number.

What is Oxidation?

 The definition of oxidation has changed with time, and the most recent one, in simple words, defines a process where a chemical species loses electrons and becomes more positive. Becoming more positive doesn’t necessarily mean having a positive charge. For example, if an ion X4- goes through the process of oxidation and loses two electrons, it becomes X2-. This means that it becomes more positive as (-2) oxidation state is more than (-4), but it doesn’t carry a positive charge. 

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If we go back to the history of chemical reactions, oxygen gas (O2) is one of the oldest known oxidizing agents. Since adding O2 in a chemical reaction led to the loss of electrons from another chemical species, oxidation was defined as a process where the presence of O2 was crucial. This definition became more predominant when iron was combined with water to form iron oxide/rust. 

But, oxidation of a chemical species can or cannot contain oxygen gas necessarily. For example, when ethanol forms ethanal, it loses a hydrogen atom, which is still considered oxidation. So, the presence of particular oxygen gas is not required for oxidation. As long as a chemical species loses electrons and its oxidation state increases, oxidation takes place. 

Example of oxidation reaction: 2 KI + H2O2 →  I2 + 2 KOH   (oxidation of iodide). Here, the oxidation number of iodide changes from (-1) to (0).

What is Reduction?

Reduction is the opposite reaction of oxidation. This is because the electrons that are lost from a chemical species are obtained by another species, which goes through reduction. During reduction, one or more than one electron is gained by an atom or a molecule, and it becomes more negatively charged. When a species goes through reduction, that compound’s oxidation state decreases. 

Again, we might have confusion that a chemical compound or an ion will have a negative charge after reduction. For example, if an ion X4+ goes through the process of reduction and gains two electrons, it becomes X2+. This means that it becomes more negative as (+2) oxidation state is less than (+4), but it doesn’t carry a negative charge. So, the process of reduction doesn’t necessarily mean a negative charge. Reduction signifies the gain of electrons, and a reducing agent is responsible for an electron transfer to a species. 

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Consider an example, ZnO  + C  → Zn  + CO  (reduction of zinc oxide). Here, the oxidation number of zinc changes from (+2) to (0). This means it has gained to electron and has been reduced. 

Main Differences Between Oxidation and Reduction

  1. Oxidation refers to the gain of oxygen or loss of hydrogen from a compound, whereas reduction refers to the gain of hydrogen or loss of oxygen from a compound. 
  2. In oxidation, a covalent compound releases electrons to the surroundings, whereas, in reduction, a covalent compound gains electrons from the surrounding.
  3. The common oxidizing agents are hydrogen peroxide and ozone, whereas the common reducing agents are compounds that contain metals like potassium, barium, calcium, etc. and an H ion.
  4. In oxidation, positive charge increase as it loses electrons, whereas, in reduction, the negative charge increases as it gains electrons.  
  5. Oxidation leads to an increase in oxidation number, whereas reduction leads to a decrease in oxidation number.
References
  1. https://www.cabdirect.org/cabdirect/abstract/19811963339
  2. https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlehtml/2015/dt/c5dt02612a

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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12 thoughts on “Oxidation vs Reduction: Difference and Comparison”

  1. This post clears up any confusion regarding the concept of oxidation and reduction and their real-life implications; it is a great guide for anyone who is learning about redox reactions.

    Reply
  2. This article is a great piece for anyone who is trying to understand and learn about oxidation and reduction; it provides an in-depth explanation.

    Reply
  3. I agree, the comparison provides a clear and concise overview of the chemical reactions involved in oxidation and reduction.

    Reply
  4. This is a great article! I particularly appreciate the detailed comparison between oxidation and reduction in the comparison table.

    Reply
  5. The practical examples provided in the text are very useful in understanding how oxidation and reduction work in real-life chemical reactions.

    Reply
  6. I found the examples provided very illustrative and helpful to understand the concepts explained in the post.

    Reply
  7. Indeed a very thorough analysis of oxidation and reduction; the post provides a comprehensive definition and comparison of both reactions.

    Reply
  8. There are numerous real-world applications of oxidation and reduction reactions, such as corrosion, burning of fuels, metabolism, among others.

    Reply
  9. The post thoroughly explains the concepts of oxidation and reduction, and the comparison table is very helpful to understand the main differences between the two processes.

    Reply
  10. The detailed explanation and the comparison table are particularly helpful in understanding the differences between oxidation and reduction.

    Reply
  11. The examples of oxidation and reduction reactions included in the text are very helpful to understand how these processes work.

    Reply
  12. Oxidation is a very versatile and complex chemical reaction, it is important to know well its implications in a reaction.

    Reply

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