Oxidizing Agent

Oxidizing Agent

What does something like an oxidizing agent state in the world of science and chemistry? Has it got anything to do with oxygenation reagents and processes alike? Let's find out the definition, its examples and its reacting properties in this article below.
Whenever I jump into the pool of scientific talks and write-ups, I very often get a nostalgic feeling of all the chemistry and physics lessons I had conned in my early days of schooling and college. Especially a subject like chemistry which was my fave though, but still was like a rocket science for a naive like me to crack each semester exam surfacing in every few months. I still remember comprehending the concept of atomic structures and isotopes, what are halogens, what is an oxidizer and things like that. I had even memorized the layout of the periodic table on the tip of my fingers. All of this still is perplexing for me to bounce in its glory. But as of now apart from gloating under that disregarded context, let's stick our nose into the book for understanding an oxidizer in chemistry.

What is an Oxidizing Agent

Heading straight for the hills, the scientific definition is:
a - it is a chemical compound which easily transfers atoms of oxygen and,
b - in a redox chemical reaction, it is a substance that gains electrons.

Thus, the prompt definition would be:

"An oxidizing agent is cited as a chemical substance that readily transfers oxygen atoms or it is a substance that gains electrons in a redox chemical reaction."

This is the technical definition of knowing what exactly is an oxidizer. The two cases that are stated above have a very simple inference, i.e., the oxidant is getting reduced in the chemical process and likewise. It works both ways; an oxidizing agent is reduced and a reducing agent is oxidized. Studies have proven that an oxidizer normally pair with the reducing agents, which are substances that gain electrons in a redox (oxidation-reduction) reaction. Many claims under this subject have also proven that such agents are called oxygenation reagents, because it exhibits properties of oxygen-atom transfer in a particular reaction. The fundamentals of oxygenation are very common and simple, wherein every metal and most non-metals get oxidized to a point of magnitude. Adding content in the same breath, the properties also state that all the atoms in a given molecule can be easily assigned an oxidation number. This oxidation number consequently changes when an oxidant acts on a given substrate. Thus, in a redox reaction, there is a possibility for the oxidation number to change under reacting circumstances.

Now before we move ahead to the examples, let us glance at some common oxidizers from the flyspeck list below.

Common Oxidizers
  • Oxygen (O2)
  • Fluorine (F2)
  • Ozone (O3)
  • Chlorine (Cl2)
  • Iodine (I2)
  • Bromine (Br2)
  • Nitric Acid (HNO3)
  • Chlorate (CIO3-)
  • Hypochlorite (OCI-)
  • Dichromate (Cr2O72-)
  • Chromate (CrO42-)
  • Chromium Trioxide (CrO3)
  • Permanganate (MnO4-)
  • Manganate (MnO42-)
Out of all these, some have properties which are strong and others are simply the best agents in a chemical reaction. Therefore, here are some agents assorted in each category.

Strongest Oxidizing Agents

Molecules, atoms and ions which have an extraordinary affinity of electrons act as good oxidizers. For instance, an element like fluorine (F2) is known to be the strongest in the lot. The reason being that chemical elements like asbestos, metals, quartz, and even water bursts out into flames in the presence of fluorine. Other strongest agents include O2, O3, Cl2, MnO4-, CrO42-, Cr2O72- ions, HNO3, H2SO4 (sulfuric acid) and HClO4 (perchloric acid). All of these compounds are stated as the strongest oxidizers because their atomic states continue to increase, they continue to become even more electronegative.

Example: Here is an example for the category of strong compounds. The observer has to identify the role of permanganate ion in this given reaction.

Reaction: 2 MnO4-(aq) + 5 H2C2O4(aq) + 6 H+(aq) -----> 10 CO2(g) + 2 Mn2+(aq) + 8 H2O(I)

What we observe is that permanganate ion is reduced to Mn2+ ion and oxalic acid is oxidized to CO2.

Oxidation: H2C2O4 -----> CO2

Reduction: MnO4- -----> Mn2+

Result: Here, the permanganate ion removes all the electrons from the molecules of oxalic acid and thereby, oxidizes oxalic acid. The best agent here is MnO4- because, it gives up all the electrons in the reaction and reduces to Mn2+, the reducing agent being oxalic acid.

Well, in conclusion, I would only like to say that, the process of oxidation and the role of an oxidizer simply depends on the amount of oxygen as an element present in the atmosphere and also in the nature of the reacting materials it behaves with.