Skip to content


Oxidation refers to a chemical reaction in which a substance combines with oxygen or loses electrons, resulting in a change in its chemical composition. This process is commonly associated with the reaction of a material with atmospheric oxygen, but it can also involve other substances as oxidizing agents. Rusting iron and tarnishing silver are both oxidation.

Key points about oxidation include:

  1. Chemical Reaction: Oxidation involves a chemical reaction in which a substance undergoes a transformation due to its interaction with oxygen or other oxidizing agents.
  2. Electron Transfer: In oxidation, a substance loses electrons. This loss of electrons is often accompanied by a gain of electrons by another substance in a complementary process called reduction.
  3. Oxygen’s Role: Oxygen is a common oxidizing agent due to its strong affinity for electrons. When a substance reacts with oxygen, it is said to be oxidized, and oxygen is reduced.
  4. Examples: Rusting of iron is a well-known example of oxidation. When iron reacts with oxygen and moisture, it forms iron oxide (rust). Another example is the browning of cut fruit or vegetables when exposed to air, as a result of oxidation of compounds in the cells.
  5. Corrosion: Oxidation can lead to corrosion, which is the deterioration of materials, often metals, due to chemical reactions with their environment. Corrosion can weaken structures and cause damage.
  6. Role in Biology: Oxidation is a fundamental process in biology, particularly in cellular respiration. Cells use oxygen to oxidize glucose and other nutrients to produce energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
  7. Combustion: Combustion, such as burning of fuels, is a form of rapid oxidation in which a substance reacts with oxygen, releasing energy in the form of heat and light.
  8. Oxidation States: In chemistry, oxidation states (also known as oxidation numbers) indicate the degree of oxidation of an atom within a molecule or ion. Positive oxidation states represent loss of electrons, while negative oxidation states represent gain of electrons.

Oxidation is a fundamental chemical process with diverse applications in various fields, from industrial processes and energy production to biological reactions. Understanding oxidation is crucial in fields like chemistry, biology, and materials science, as it plays a significant role in the behavior and properties of substances.