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Difference Between Oxidation and Reduction

Oxidation vs Reduction

Chemical reactions between different compounds are called Redox reactions. Redox is short for reduction-oxidation which is what occurs in any chemical reaction. While oxidations refers to loss of electrons, reductions is where the regain of electrons occur. In simplest of words, change in oxidation number of atoms sums up both oxidation and reduction. These reactions can be simple or complex depending upon the process and the atoms involved.

Oxidation can be described as an increase in oxidation number whereas reduction is a condition of decrease in oxidation number. Though transfer (gain or loss) of electrons is a precondition of Redox reactions, there are reactions where there is no transfer of electrons. These are called as metathesis reactions.

The major difference between reduction and oxidation lies in gain and loss of electrons. While oxidation involves loss of electrons, reduction is when there is a gain of electrons. Redox reactions are balanced in the sense that the number of electrons lost by a molecule is same as electrons gained by another molecule in the reaction. The electron lost by a molecule shifts to neighboring molecule that accepts it. The processes of gain and loss of electrons go on all the time with some of the reactions being such that we can observe physically in our daily lives. For example when we cut an apple and leave it open for some time, the color of the apple changes to brown which shows that it has been oxidized. Similarly iron getting oxidized is reflected by the formation of rust over it.

Metals are reducing agents and their corrosion reflects their reduction. Iron reduces to its oxide which is called rust that eats up iron while zinc reduces to its oxide which is not detrimental to it and forms a protective layering over zinc.

In brief:

• Reduction and oxidation are chemical processes involved in every chemical reaction.

• Oxidation means loss of electrons while reduction refers to gain of electrons

• Oxidation is called increase in oxidation number while reduction is decrease in oxidation number

• Redox reactions can be seen practically in daily life situation


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