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Last updated: May 25, 2019

What Does Oxidation Mean?

Oxidation is the reaction caused by contact between substances and oxygen molecules. Such substances may be metals or non-metals, such as living tissues.

More technically, oxidation can be defined as the loss of one electron during the phase where two or more elements interact. In this, the elements do not necessarily include oxygen. In short, it can be described as an atom’s enhanced oxidation state via a chemical reaction. It's exact opposite is called reduction, which exhibits a decrease in its oxidation state. Both reactions entail formal electron transfers. Net loss involves oxidation while net gain is the state of reduction.


Corrosionpedia Explains Oxidation

Oftentimes, oxidation is intertwined with the term "rusting." However, not all substances that come in contact with oxygen crumble into rust. For instance, iron that is exposed to oxygen will undergo a deliberate burning process resulting in rusting. When this reaction occurs with copper, the outcome is called copper oxide, a greenish type of coating. In such a case, the metal is not waned by the oxidation process, but the material surface will form patina years after exposure to water and air. With such, corrosion can be closely associated with oxidation since the process entails bond formation between oxygen and steel. However, oxygen is not the only element that is responsible for the process of oxidation. In dry settings, most materials such as steel do not undergo rusting. The oxidation cause in such cases can be related to the existence of water.

To prevent corrosion caused by oxidation, materials can be guarded through different factory coatings. These may include:

  • High-density polyethylene (HDPE)
  • Fusion-bonded epoxy (FBE)
  • Urethanes

Moreover, field-applied coatings can also be utilized like those that are bitumen based, multiple- or single-layer butyl tapes, petrolatum and others. The type of coating that should be chosen depends on factors like:

  • Environmental settings
  • Expected substrate lifetime
  • Shape, position and substrate material
  • Repair and application costs

By understanding the oxidation process that can be attributed to corrosion, proper coating applications can be facilitated.

Related Question
Does aluminum rust?

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