10 Difference Between Reducing Agent And Oxidizing Agent With Examples

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Oxidation and reduction reactions occur simultaneously and they are termed REDOX reaction. REDOX can be described a type of chemical reaction in which the oxidation states of atoms are changed. REDOX reactions are characterized by the actual or formal transfer of electrons between chemical species, most often with one species undergoing oxidation (lose electrons) while another species undergoes reduction (gains electrons).  The chemical species from which the electron is removed is said to have been oxidized while the chemical species to which electron is added is said to have been reduced. Therefore, a substance is designated Oxidizing or reducing agent on the basis of how it acts on another substance.

What Is A Reducing Agent?

A reducing agent also referred to as electron donor is an element or a compound which loses one or more electrons to other substances in a redox reaction and gets oxidized to higher valency state. In other words, a reducing agent is one of the reactants of an oxidation-reduction reaction which reduces the other reactant by giving out electrons to the reactant.

All the good reducing agents have the atoms which have low electronegativity and a good ability of an atom or a molecule to attract the bonding electrons and the species having very small ionization energies.

Generally if a substance has a strong tendency to lose electrons, then it is said to be a strong reducing agent. Lithium is the strongest reducing agent in solution state whereas cesium is the strongest reducing agent in dry state or in absence of water. The substances which act as oxidizing as well as reducing agents include: H2O2, SO2, H2SO3, HNO2, NaNO2 etc.

Examples of Reducing Agents

  • All metals e.g Na, Zn, K, Mg, Fe, Al, Ca etc.
  • Few non-metals e.g C, H, S, P etc.
  • Hydracids e.g HCl, HBr, HI, H2S etc
  • Organic compounds e.g HCOOH
  • Metallic hydrides e.g NaH, LiH, CaH2 etc
  • Few compounds containing an element in the lower oxidation state e.g FeCl2, FeSO4, SnCl2, Hg2Cl2 etc
  • Formic acid

What You Need To Know About Reducing Agent

  • A reducing agent is an element or compound that has ability to lose or ‘donate’ an electron in a redox chemical reaction.
  • A reducing agent is usually a metal or a negative ion.
  • During the reaction, a reducing agent is oxidized and loses one or more electrons.
  • Lithium is the strongest reducing agent in solution state whereas cesium is the strongest reducing agent in dry state.
  • The oxidation state of a reducing agent increases during a redox reaction.
  • Examples of reducing agents include the earth metals, formic acid, oxalic acid and sulfite compound.
  • Reduction reaction stores energy.
  • All metals, hydrides and polymeric hydrides are reducing agents.
  • All the good reducing agents have the atoms which have low electronegativity.

What Is An Oxidizing Agent?

An oxidizing agent also referred to as electron acceptor is an element or compound that has the ability to oxidize other substances i.e cause an increase in the oxidation state of the substance by making it lose electrons. In other words, oxidizing agent can be described a chemical species that transfers electronegative atoms, usually oxygen to a substrate.

Oxidizing agents normally exist in their highest possible oxidation states and therefore, have a strong tendency to gain electrons and undergo reduction. Ions, atoms and molecules having a strong affinity towards electrons are considered to be good oxidizers. The stronger the electron affinity, the greater the oxidizing power.  

The element fluorine is considered to be strongest oxidizing agent among all elements in the periodic table, due to the fact it is the most electronegative element and therefore exerts the strongest attractive force on electrons amongst all the elements. Generally, the strongest oxidizing agent is the weakest reducing agent.

Examples Of Oxidizing Agent

  • Molecules made up of electronegative element e.g O2, O3 and X2
  • Compounds containing an element which is in the higher oxidized state e.g KMnO4, K2Cv2O7, HNO3, KClO3 etc.
  • Oxides of metals and non-metals e.g  MgO, CuO, CrO3, P4O10
  • Halogens e.g chlorine and fluorine

What You Need To Know About Oxidizing Agent

  • An oxidizing agent is a reactant that removes electrons from other reactants during a redox reaction.
  • An oxidizing agent is generally a non-metal or positive ion.
  • During the reaction, an oxidizing agent is reduced and gains one or more electrons.
  • Fluorine is the strongest oxidizing agent.
  • The oxidation state of oxidizing agent decreases during a redox reaction.
  • Examples of oxidizing agents include halogens, potassium nitrate and nitric acid.
  • Oxidation reaction releases energy.
  • Almost all non-metals and oxides are oxidizing agents.
  • All the good oxidizing agents have the atoms which have high electronegativity.

Also Read: Difference Between Reducing Sugar And Non-reducing Sugar

Difference Between Reducing Agent And Oxidizing Agent In Tabular Form

BASIS OF COMPARISON REDUCING AGENT OXIDIZING AGENT
Description A reducing agent is an element or compound that has ability to lose or ‘donate’ an electron in a redox chemical reaction.   An oxidizing agent is a reactant that removes electrons from other reactants during a redox reaction.  
Alternative Name Electron donor Electron acceptor
Nature A reducing agent is usually a metal or a negative ion.   An oxidizing agent is generally a non-metal or positive ion.  
During Redox During the reaction, a reducing agent is oxidized and loses one or more electrons.   During the reaction, an oxidizing agent is reduced and gains one or more electrons.  
Strongest Reducing/Oxidizing Agent Lithium is the strongest reducing agent in solution state whereas cesium is the strongest reducing agent in dry state.   Fluorine is the strongest oxidizing agent.  
Oxidation State The oxidation state of a reducing agent increases during a redox reaction.   The oxidation state of oxidizing agent decreases during a redox reaction.  
Example Examples of reducing agents include the earth metals, formic acid, oxalic acid and sulfite compound.   Examples of oxidizing agents include halogens, potassium nitrate and nitric acid.  
Chemical Reaction Reduction reaction stores energy.   Oxidation reaction releases energy.  
Generalization All metals, hydrides and polymeric hydrides are reducing agents.   Almost all non-metals are oxidizing agents.  
Electronegativity All the good reducing agents have the atoms which have low electronegativity.   All the good oxidizing agents have the atoms which have high electronegativity.  

Applications Of Redox Reaction

  • Bleaching of fabrics
  • Purification of water
  • Storage of energies in batteries
  • Metabolism and photosynthesis
  • Vulcanization of rubber i.e increasing the strength and the elasticity of rubber
  • Combustion of fuel involves the use of an oxidizing agent
  • Electroplating process
  • Production of different bakery products
  • Galvanization of steel
  • Separation of metals from ores
  • Cleaning of industrial products.