HOW ARE REDOX REACTIONS DIFFERENT?
Redox is the term used to label reactions in which the acceptance of an electron (reduction) by a material is matched with the donation of an electron (oxidation). A large number of the reactions already mentioned in the Reactions chapter are redox reactions. Synthesis reactions are also redox reactions if there is an exchange of electrons to make an ionic bond. If chlorine gas is added to sodium metal to make sodium chloride, the sodium has donated an electron and the chlorine has accepted an electron to become a chloride ion or an attached chlorine. If a compound divides into elements in a decomposition, a decomposition reaction could be a redox reaction. The electrolysis of water is a redox reaction. With a direct electric current through it, water can be separated into oxygen and hydrogen. H2O H2 + O2 The oxygen and hydrogen in the water are attached by a covalent bond that breaks to make the element oxygen and the element hydrogen. Learning more about the conditions for redox reactions will show that the electrolysis of water is a redox reaction. A single replacement reaction is always a redox reaction because it involves an element that becomes incorporated into a compound and an element in the compound being released as a free element. A double replacement reaction usually is not a redox reaction.
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Before we go any further into redox, we must understand oxidation states. The idea of oxidation state began with whether or not a metal was attached to an oxygen. Unattached (free) atoms have an oxidation state of zero. Since oxygen almost always takes in two electrons when it is not a free element, the combined form of oxygen (oxide) has an oxidation state of minus two. The exception to a combined oxygen taking two electrons is the peroxide configuration. Peroxide can be represented by -O-O- where the each dash is a covalent bond and each ‘O’ is an oxygen atom. Peroxide can be written as a symbol, (O2)2-. The over-simplified way of showing this is that each oxygen atom has a negative one oxidation state, but that is not really so because the peroxides do not come in individual oxygen atoms. Peroxides are not as stable as oxides, and there are very many fewer peroxides in nature than oxides. H2O2 is hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen in compound always has an oxidation state of plus one, except as a hydride. A hydride is a compound of a metal and hydrogen. The hydrogen atoms in a hydride have the oxidation state of -1. Hydrides react with water, so there are no hydrides found in nature. The formula XH or XH2 or XH3 or even XH4 where X is a metal is the general chemical formula for hydride. The rules for oxidation state are in some ways arbitrary and unnatural, but here they are:
1. Any free (unattached) element with no charge has the oxidation state of zero. Diatomic gases such as O2 and H2 are also in this category.2. All compounds have a net oxidation state of zero. The oxidation state of all of the atoms add up to zero.3. Any ion has the oxidation state that is the charge of that ion. Polyatomic ions (radicals) have an oxidation state for the whole ion that is the charge on that ion. The ions of elements in Group I, II, and VII (halogens) and some other elements only have one likely oxidation state.4. Oxygen in compound has an oxidation state of minus two, except for oxygen as peroxide, which is minus one.5. Hydrogen in compound has an oxidation state of plus one, except for hydrogen as hydride, which is minus one.6. In radicals or small covalent molecules, the element with the greatest electronegativity has its natural ion charge as its oxidation state.
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Now would be a good time to try the oxidation state problems beginning the practice page at the end of this chapter. Problems 1-30 are good examples for practice of assigning oxidation states.
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IS IT A REDOX REACTION?
A redox reaction...
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