What is an oxidizing agent?

Oxidizing agent

The word oxidant is a term that is used to refer to some type of substance that has the ability to produce oxidation in another through a series of electrochemical reactions including reduction and oxidation . So, an oxidizing agent is one that has managed to reach a stable state as a result of the reduction of the oxidant and the gain of electrons .

What is an oxidizing agent?

An oxidizing agent is a chemical species that has the tendency to cause the oxidation of other substances , that is, it can cause an increase in the oxidation state of a certain substance to be generated, causing it to lose electrons in this way .

  • Definition of oxidizing agent
  • Characteristics of an oxidizing agent
  • How to identify it
  • Importance
  • Examples of oxidizing agent

Definition of oxidizing agent

Oxidizing agents can understand two different definitions. First, they can be defined as electron acceptors and in this case they are chemical substances in which atoms can remove at least one electron from another atom when a chemical reaction occurs. In this case, the oxidizing agents represent the reactants that face a reduction when redox reactions occur .

It can also be defined as an electron acceptor and in this case it refers to those chemical substances in which atoms can remove at least one electron from another atom while the chemical reaction occurs, then oxidizing agents are a type of reagent that they occur in a reduction when the redox reaction occurs. The oxidizing agent is then a type of reagent that has the ability to remove electrons from other types of reagents through the redox reaction.

Characteristics of an oxidizing agent

The main characteristics of oxidizing agents are mentioned below:

  • They are agents that have a strong tendency to gain electrons and subsequently undergo a reduction .
  • The greater the affinity of the substance for electrons, the greater its oxidation power .
  • It is considered as an electron acceptor but it also has the ability to transfer electronegative atoms to a substrate.
  • Strong oxidising agents have the ability to react so vigorously to other compounds producing heat and various gaseous products .
  • They can react vigorously as active metals , cyanides, and esters .
  • The vast majority of oxidizing agents turn out to be toxic if swallowed, and those that are in the gaseous or liquid state can also cause chemical burns if inhaled or if they come into contact with the skin.
  • When it participates in the combustion process , the oxidizing agent is known by the name of oxidizer and it is a term used to refer to a substance that under certain conditions of pressure and temperature can combine with the fuel, thus generating the combustion process.

How to identify it?

In order to identify an oxidizing agent, it is necessary to analyze the ease with which a certain substance can take up electrons and cause the other to lose them . In general , non-metals are the most effective oxidizing agents and are also abundant in nature, for example oxygen and fluorine . Another way to identify them is by looking for groups 1 and 2 of the periodic table in which it is possible to find the most effective oxidizing agents.


Oxidizing agents have a very special importance in the field and industrial applications as they are necessary to carry out processes that include water purification, energy storage and tissue bleaching, among others. In addition, they are also an important part of biological processes.

They are also important for laboratories since many of these oxidizing agents are used to produce reactions with less active metals , for example, potassium permanganate , hydrogen peroxide and halogens . Additionally, oxidizing agents may be used in a variety of applications both commercial and industrial , for example:

  • They are used for bleaching fabrics .
  • They turn out to be very useful for water purification.
  • They are also used in the fuel combustion process that involves the use of an oxidizing agent.
  • In the storage of energy in batteries .
  • In the rubber vulcanization process, because by means of oxidizing agents, the resistance and elasticity of this material can be considerably increased.
  • In addition, oxidizing agents are also an important part of a series of biological processes that turn out to be fundamental for the life of some living beings, such as metabolism and photosynthesis .

Examples of oxidizing agent

Some examples of oxidizing agents are mentioned below:

  • Peroxydisulfuric acid: H2S2O8
  • Persulfuric acid: H2SO5
  • Osmium tetroxide : OsO 4
  • Nitrogen oxide: N2O
  • Organic peroxides such as tert-butyl monoperoximaleate and acetylacetone peroxide.
  • Peroxides such as sodium, lithium, silver, magnesium, among others.
  • Compounds derived from chlorine such as chlorites, chlorates, perchlorates and hypochlorites.

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