How do you determine the oxidizing or reducing agent in a redox equation?

1 Answer
Sep 16, 2016

Answer:

If the oxidation number increases upon reaction, the species is a reducing agent. And if the oxidation number decreases, the species is an oxidizing agent.

Explanation:

Redox transfer is formalized on the basis of loss or gain or electrons. Recall the old mnemonic: #"LEO SAYS GER"#, #"loss of electrons = oxidation; gain of electrons = reduction."#

And thus if something has been oxidized, it is A SOURCE of electrons; likewise, if something has been reduced it is an electron sink, and has ACCEPTED electron from somewhere.

We can go to a simple redox reaction; the oxidation of elemental carbon:

#C + O_2 rarr CO_2#

Zerovalent carbon has been oxidized to #C^(IV+)#. But while carbon has been oxidized, its very oxidation has provided electrons to the dioxygen oxidant; i.e. carbon is here the reducing agent.