What is an Oxidizer?

What Does Oxidizer Mean

An oxidizer or oxidant is a substance or chemical compound that has the property of reducing itself , that is, of gaining electrons , when it is part of an electrochemical or oxide-reduction reaction . These are chemical compounds that oxidize others with which they react, removing electrons from them.

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In this type of reaction, known as redox , the two processes occur simultaneously: the oxidation of one compound (the fuel) and the reduction of the other (the oxidizer). All the compounds involved have an oxidation state , and energy is usually released while the reaction occurs, that is, it is an exothermic reaction . The classic example of this type of reaction is combustion .

The best known oxidizer of all is oxygen , essential in practically all forms of combustion, and present in the earth's atmosphere in proportions of up to 21%. It is for this reason that we cannot light a fire without a minimum presence of air , since air is a mixture of oxygen and other gases.

See also: Chemical phenomena

Examples of oxidizer

Some known oxidizing or oxidizing agents are as follows:

  • Oxygen (O). It is the most common oxidizer on planet Earth . In fact, we use it in our bodies to oxidize glucose molecules in food and thus obtain chemical energy to keep us alive.
  • The bleaches. Such as hypochlorite (ClO - ) and other hypohalites, as well as chlorites (ClO 2 - ), chlorates (ClO 3 - ) and similar halogen compounds.
  • Hydrogen peroxide. Known as hydrogen peroxide (H 2 O 2 ).
  • Permanganate salts. For example, potassium permanganate (KMnO4).
  • Sulfoxides. For example, peroxosulfuric acid (H 2 SO 5 ).
  • The Tollens reagent. An aqueous complex of diamine-silver that is used in laboratories, precisely, as an oxidant.
  • Most compounds containing Cerium (IV).

Oxidizer and fuel

Oxidizer and fuel participate in the redox reaction.

If the oxidizer is the compound that gains electrons during the redox reaction, the fuel is the substance that gives up electrons and oxidizes , unlike the oxidizer (which is reduced).

In doing so, the fuel releases part of its chemical energy as heat , thus allowing combustion to occur, for example. Both fuel and oxidizer are essential for this type of chemical reaction to take place .

Some typical fuels are coal, wood, hydrocarbons , gasoline, natural gas , etc.

Activation energy

Activation energy can be as small as a spark.

Activation energy is a minimum initial energy charge that triggers the reaction . It is the last element necessary for combustion to occur, apart from fuel and oxidizer.

By themselves, fuel and oxidizer do not usually react , but if we add an additional load of energy, in the form of heat , we will unleash combustion until the fuel has been consumed.

A clear example is the lighting of a campfire. We have the fuel (the wood), the oxidizer (the oxygen in the air), but we need to light a match or match to be able to start the combustion.

The same happens with a lighter: we have the fuel (the liquefied gas), the oxidizer (the oxygen in the air) and we only require the additional energy of the spark, produced by the turning of the wheel on the lighter.

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