How do you find the oxidizing agent in a reaction?

1 Answer
Aug 19, 2017

Answer:

The oxidizing agent is FORMALLY the species that is reduced.........

Explanation:

See this old answer for the formal rules of oxidation numbers. We conceive that a species, an atom LOSES electron upon oxidation.

And thus for the oxidation of methane.....

#CH_4(g)+O_2(g) rarr CO_2(g) + 2H_2O(l)#

We can put in oxidation numbers if we like.....

#CH_4(g)+O_2(g) rarr CO_2(g) + 2H_2O(l)#

#C(-IV) + O(0) rarrC(+IV) + 4xxO(-II)#

A formal EIGHT electron oxidation.

We could formalize this process even further by writing the separate redox reactions:

#CH_4 +2H_2O rarr CO_2 +8H^+ +8e^-# #(i)#

#O_2 +2H^(+) + 2e^(-)rarr H_2O# #(ii)#

#4xx(ii) + (i)# gives the balanced combustion reaction.