Reducing agents

Oxidation and reduction reactions play important roles in chemistry. These reactions involve the loss of electrons in the case of oxidation or the gain of electrons in reduction reactions.

Oxidation and reduction reactions can be brought about by chemicals known as oxidising and reducing agents.

A reducing agent:

  • is usually a metal or a negative ion
  • loses (donates) electrons to another element or ion (reducing the other species)
  • is itself oxidised

For example, sodium is a reducing agent which is itself oxidised as follows:

\[Na(s)\rightarrow Na^{+}(aq)+e^{-}\]

The strongest reducing agents are the alkali metals (Group 1) as they have low electronegativities and lose electrons very easily.

Some molecules such as carbon monoxide (CO) are also used in the chemical industry as reducing agents to help extract metals.