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Redox

Don't leave oxidation to one side, because it's the easier one to get your head around.

The root of the word oxidation is that you've got to imagine your atom reacting with...oxygen.

You know that oxygen is an electron-snatcher (the playground bully), so, like a meek child with their dinner money, your atom is going to lose electrons.

(The reaction doesn't have to be with oxygen, of course.  It's the transfer of electrons that counts.)

Reduction is the opposite of oxidation...  ;)

However, if you're going to be picky...

With reduction, your imaginary reaction is with hydrogen.  This is insistently, whiningly desperate to give up its electron.  (Be..ee my friend.  I'll give you a sweet!).  So, your atom gains an electron.

(The historical root of the term reduction is the fact that many metals were discovered by having their salts/ores treated with hydrogen.  The hydrogen (the whiny kid that doesn't do alone) would react with the non-metallic bit of the salt (Oh, don't play with hi...im, play with me.  I'll give you a sweet!), thereby subtracting the rubbish and reducing the salt to pure metal.)

Of course, just to give it a nasty twist, oxygen is generally reduced and hydrogen oxidised.  I hope I've explained it well enough that you can see why....

by Sassafras on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 08:02:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Very nice, thanks ;)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 08:17:02 PM EST
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The mental picture I usually use is that oxidation makes stuff positive, because it's named after oxygen which likes to steal electrons, as described above.

The number of positive charges associated with the oxidised atom in the covalent bond is then the oxidation level - i.e. the degree to which it's been oxidised.

And reduction is then simply a reduction of the oxidation level. Then both words suddenly make sense (to me, at least).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Mar 24th, 2008 at 11:38:16 AM EST
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