4 Commonly used oxidizing agents

oxidizing agents

Oxidizing agents and Reducing agents are important because of their industrial applications. They are used in different processes such as purifying water, bleaching fabrics etc. This article discusses what are oxidizing agents and some examples of oxidizing agents.

What is an Oxidizing agent?

An oxidizing agent or Oxidant gains electrons and is reduced in the reaction and oxidizes other. It is an electron acceptor.  Oxidizing agents show more electronegativity in nature. The strongest oxidizing agent is Fluorine ( F). Because it is the most electronegative element in the periodic table. The oxidation number of the oxidizing agent decreases in the reaction

Here we will see a few oxidizing agents

1) Oxygen

oxygen molecule oxidizing agent
oxygen molecule

One of the most important parts of our life is Oxygen. It is a non-metal element with a symbol (O2). Its atomic number is 8. At normal temperature, it is in a gaseous state.
It is one of the strong oxidizing agents. Since it is a highly reactive element, it readily forms oxides and other compounds with most of the elements.

Read also 18 Interesting facts about Oxygen

Due to its electronegativity, it forms chemical bonds with almost all elements, Rusting of iron is the best example to understand the oxidizing power of Oxygen.

2) Nitric Acid

nitric acid oxidizing agent
Fuming nitric acid contaminated with yellow nitrogen dioxide. Credit:
W. Oelen (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Another widely used oxidizing agent is Nitric acid. It is highly corrosive mineral acid also known as aqua fortis and spirit of nitre. Nitric acid is the strong oxidizing agent.

It has wide application in industries. Most commercially available nitric acid has a concentration of 68% in water. When this concentration is 86 %, nitric acid is known as fuming nitric acid. Further fuming nitric acid is classified into red and white based on a concentration of nitric acid.

Nitric acid is mainly used for the addition of the nitro group to the organic molecules known as nitration. It has been widely used as an oxidizer in liquid-fueled propellent.

3) Hydrogen Peroxide

hydrogen peroxide oxidizing agent
Hydrogen peroxide

We are all familiar with this chemical. When we get injured, we apply it on wound and bubbles come out. Hydrogen peroxide is a compound with formula H2O2. It is used as an oxidizer, bleaching agent and also as antiseptic.

In its pure form, it is a pale blue in color and slightly viscous than water.

It contains unstable peroxide bond, which is the reason behind its highly reactive nature. Hydrogen peroxide is thermodynamically unstable and decomposes to give hydrogen and oxygen.

It has both properties, Oxidising and reducing depending on pH. In an acidic solution, it acts as an oxidizing agent. It forms in human and animal in biochemical processes as a short-lived product which is toxic to cells.

This toxicity is due to oxidation of proteins, DNA, membrane lipids by peroxide ions. As like nitric acid, it is also used in propellant of a rocket as an oxidizer.

4) Potassium Nitrate

potassium nitrate oxidizing agent
A sample of Potassium nitrate

Potassium nitrate is well known oxidizing agent used in black powder. It is an ionic salt with chemical formula KNO3. It is a great source of several nitrogen compounds.

Potassium nitrate, itself is not combustible, but on decomposition, it releases oxygen. The most popular use of KNO3 is Sugar rocket fuel. A mixture of sugar and potassium nitrate form gases of carbon dioxide and water and creates thrust. 

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