Wanna know what are the top 6 examples of redox reactions in daily life? By definition, redox reactions, short for reduction-oxidation reactions, are fundamental chemical reactions in which the oxidation state of one or more elements changes. These reactions involve the transfer of electrons between different chemical species.
The process of oxidation involves the loss of electrons by a chemical species. When a substance undergoes oxidation, it typically becomes more positively charged because it loses negatively charged electrons. Oxidation is often associated with the addition of oxygen to a substance. However, it can also involve the loss of hydrogen or the increase in the oxidation state of an element.
Similarly, the process of reduction involves the gain of electrons by a chemical species. When a substance undergoes reduction, it typically becomes more negatively charged because it gains electrons. In fact, reduction can involve the removal of oxygen from a substance, the addition of hydrogen, or the decrease in the oxidation state of an element.
Examples of Redox Reactions in Daily Life
- Rusting of Iron
- Corrosion of Silver
- Disproportionation of Ozone
Rusting of Iron
The first one on my list of top 6 redox reaction examples in everyday life is the rusting of iron. It’s a natural process that occurs when iron comes into contact with oxygen and moisture in the air. This process involves a transfer of electrons between the iron and oxygen atoms, which is a fundamental characteristic of redox reactions.
Iron atoms in the metal lose electrons when they react with oxygen molecules from the air. This loss of electrons is known as oxidation. During oxidation, the iron atoms are transformed into iron ions (Fe²⁺) by releasing electrons.
Similarly, the oxygen molecules from the air gain these electrons that were released during the oxidation of iron. This gain of electrons is known as reduction. Oxygen molecules combine with water vapor in the air to form hydroxide ions (OH⁻) in a reduction process.
So, in the rusting of iron, iron atoms lose electrons (oxidation), and oxygen gains electrons (reduction). This exchange of electrons between iron and oxygen is the essence of a redox reaction. Over time, as this process continues, it leads to the formation of rust, which is primarily composed of iron oxide compounds.
Photosynthesis is a vital process in plants and some other organisms where carbon dioxide and water are converted into glucose (a form of stored energy) and oxygen in the presence of sunlight.
During the process of photosynthesis, water is oxidized (loses electrons) to produce oxygen, releasing electrons and hydrogen ions in the process.
Similarly, carbon dioxide is reduced (gains electrons and hydrogen ions) to form glucose. This transfer of electrons from water to carbon dioxide, along with the associated proton (hydrogen ion) movement, constitutes a redox reaction.
To sum up, it’s a crucial biological process that converts light energy into chemical energy, making it possible for plants to produce their own food and release oxygen into the atmosphere.
One of the most common redox reactions is combustion. It involves the rapid combination of a fuel (typically a hydrocarbon like gasoline, methane, or wood) with oxygen from the air to release energy in the form of heat and light.
When hydrocarbons like methane (CH4) react with oxygen (O2), they produce carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). During this process, carbon in methane loses electrons (oxidation), while oxygen gains electrons (reduction).
To sum up, one can simply say that the hydrocarbon (e.g., methane) undergoes oxidation by losing electrons as it combines with oxygen. On the other hand, oxygen molecules are reduced as they gain electrons and form water.
Corrosion of Silver
In the corrosion of silver, the surface of the silver metal reacts with substances in the environment, such as sulfur compounds, oxygen, or pollutants. Silver atoms on the surface lose electrons and form silver ions (Ag⁺). During this oxidation reaction, the silver metal loses electrons to become silver ions.
The electrons released during the oxidation of silver are used in reduction reactions involving other substances in the environment. For example, if sulfur compounds are present, they can be reduced by gaining electrons.
In this reduction reaction, sulfur compounds gain electrons and become sulfides, while water is oxidized to form hydroxide ions. This exchange of electrons between the silver and other environmental substances like sulfur is characteristic of a redox reaction.
Not to mention, corrosion of silver leads to the formation of silver compounds (often dark in color) on the surface of the silver object, which is usually undesirable, as it tarnishes the appearance of the silver.
In the bleaching process, a strong oxidizing agent, such as chlorine bleach is typically used. The oxidizing agent donates oxygen atoms or ions that can accept electrons. These oxygen atoms or ions then react with the colored compounds, breaking down their chemical structures.
The colored compounds present in the material being bleached are reduced. Reduction is the gain of electrons. Therefore, as a result, when the oxidizing agent oxidizes the colored compounds, these compounds lose their color as their chemical structures are altered.
Disproportionation of Ozone
Last but not least one on my list of 6 redox reactions examples in daily life is Disproportionation of Ozone. In this reaction, ozone (O3) is both oxidized and reduced, leading to the formation of oxygen molecules (O2) and oxygen atoms (O).
In the disproportionation of ozone, some of the ozone molecules lose oxygen atoms and are oxidized to form oxygen molecules (O2). Here, two ozone molecules (O3) are oxidized to produce three oxygen molecules (O2). As a result, Ozone loses oxygen atoms and is thus oxidized in the process.
Simultaneously, the oxygen atoms generated from the oxidation of ozone are reduced. Oxygen atoms combine with other oxygen atoms to form oxygen molecules. In this reaction, oxygen atoms gain electrons and are reduced to form oxygen molecules.
This simultaneous occurrence of oxidation and reduction in the same reaction is characteristic of a redox reaction. The disproportionation of ozone is an essential process in the Earth’s atmosphere, as it contributes to the formation and decomposition of ozone, which plays a crucial role in protecting life on Earth by absorbing harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
Some Other Redox Reaction Examples in Everyday Life
Apart from the above-mentioned ones, I am also mentioning a few here.
- Cellular Respiration
- Battery Operation
- Bleaching Hair
- Corrosion of Copper
- Redox Titration, etc.
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