What are metal oxides?

Metal oxides

In chemistry , it is possible to find a great variety and quantity of metallic or basic oxides as they are also known. This type of compound originates at the moment in which the combination of oxygen with a metal is carried out . They have the ability to react with water to form hydroxides in this way and are very common to find even in nature and everyday life.

Metallic oxides What are they, characteristics, properties, obtaining, uses 

What are metal oxides?

Metal oxides are a type of oxide that are composed of the union that occurs between oxygen and the oxide through an ionic bond that usually occurs when the temperature is increased or when the metal remains in contact with the air .

  • Characteristics of metal oxides
  • Properties
  • Obtaining
  • Uses and applications of metal oxides
  • Structure
  • Formulation
  • Nomenclature
  • Importance
  • Examples of metal oxides

Characteristics of metal oxides

Among the main characteristics that can be observed in metallic oxides, the following are mentioned:

  • They generally tend to be solid .
  • They have a relatively high melting point.
  • They are mostly crystalline and also are moderately soluble in water.
  • They are good conductors of electricity .
  • They can be present in the three different states of aggregation of matter.
  • They are inorganic type compounds .
  • They are composed of metal cations and also oxygen.
  • The process to obtain them depends to a great extent on the nature of the metal or the reactivity and the physical conditions that surround it.


Its properties depend mainly on the metal and the way in which it can interact with the anion. Among its main properties are the following:

  • They have basicity which is the ability of a substance to be a neutralizing acid when it is in an aqueous solution.
  • It has amphotericism , in this aspect it should be remembered that not all oxides are the same, so while it is located further to the left, the metal will be more basic than the oxide.


Metal oxides can be obtained at the moment in which a metal is reacted with oxygen . A good example of the production process can be seen in a metal that gradually rusts when exposed to water or air without any protection. They can also be obtained by means of thermal decomposition in which one or two molecules must be liberated from the original compound, be it a salt or a hydroxide.

Uses and applications of metal oxides

The uses and applications of metal oxides are abundant and in fact, they are used in various activities of daily life , mainly those that are related to the manufacture of chemical substances . Some, such as magnesium oxide, can be used in the pharmaceutical field to create medicines for the stomach and to make antidotes.

They are also used in the manufacture of paints, colorants, in the creation of alloys that have incredible durability and hardness, in the manufacture of glass and in the field of industry mainly.


In its structure you can find a metal and oxygen which acts with an oxidation number of -2.


The general formula used to represent metal oxides is as follows:

2 O n

Where the letter M will represent the symbol of the compound and the letter n will represent the oxidation number that the metal has.


Metal oxides are a bit difficult to name because the substances that make them up sometimes have different oxidation numbers. To carry out the nomenclature of metal oxides, the system known as stoichiometric or systematic is used and the STOCK system is also used . It is important to know that, in order to name them, the following aspects must also be taken into account.

When the metallic element has only one oxidation number then the following mechanisms can be used:

  • Traditional : suffixes or prefixes are placed, always depending on the oxidation state of the metallic elements.
  • Systematic : these are named depending on the number of atoms that the molecules have.
  • STOCK : in this mechanism the oxidation state of the metal that is part of the compound is added to the final part of the name . This number must be placed using Roman numerals and also must be placed between parentheses .

When the metallic element has two oxidation numbers , then the following mechanisms can be used to establish the nomenclature:

  • Traditional : suffixes or prefixes are also added depending on the oxidation state in which the metallic elements are found. When the element has a higher oxidation state, then the suffix -ico should be used When the element has a lower oxidation state, the suffix -oso must be added.
  • Systematic : the rules will be the same as the previous one.
  • STOCK : in this case, at the end of the name, the oxidation state of the metal must be added depending on the compound. It must also be placed using Roman numerals and will be placed in parentheses .

When the metallic element has three different oxidation numbers , then the following nomenclature mechanisms should be used:

  • Traditional : prefixes and suffixes are also used, always depending on the oxidation state of the metallic elements. If the element has a higher oxidation state, then the suffix -ico will be added and, when it is lower, the suffix -oso will be added .
  • Systematic : in this case the rules must remain the same.
  • STOCK : at the end of the name the oxidation state of the metal must be added, it will also be placed using Roman numerals which must be placed in parentheses.


Metal oxides are of great importance for man and for everything related to the field of industry as they are fundamental and necessary in many of the activities that are carried out daily. They also turn out to be the raw material in chemical laboratories because through them the different bases and compounds necessary for their proper functioning can be obtained.

They also turn out to be fundamental in the different sources of minerals, since these are also found freely in nature and therefore, they turn out to be the main base in the manufacture of various types of materials. They are even used in the manufacture of different types of electronic equipment and solar panels .

Examples of metal oxides

Some examples of metal oxides are as follows:

  • Cuprous oxide : its formula is Cu2O, it is a copper oxide and is also insoluble in water.
  • Cobalt oxide : its formula is CoO and it is a red inorganic monoxide when it is in crystalline form.
  • Titanium oxide : its formula is TiO2 and can be found naturally in some types of minerals.
  • Zinc oxide : whose formula is ZnO, it is a white compound which is poorly soluble in water.
  • Silver oxide : the formula for this oxide is Ag2O and it is found as a fine black powder.
  • Chromic oxide : its formula is CrO and it is an inorganic type compound made up of chromium and oxygen.
  • Plumbous oxide : whose formula is PbO and it is an orange-colored compound that is very often used for the manufacture of ceramics and in the field of the chemical industry .

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