Oxidizing Atmosphere

Definition - What does Oxidizing Atmosphere mean?

An oxidizing atmosphere is a (planetary) atmosphere which oxidizes immersed (surface) compounds. It sometimes refers to an O2-rich atmosphere. Oxidizing atmospheres are used in furnaces in pottery and in explaining rusting in atmospheric corrosion.

Rusting, caused by a reaction between oxygen and metal, is the common term for corrosion of iron and its alloys, such as steel. Many other metals undergo equivalent corrosion, but the resulting oxides are not commonly called rust.

Oxidation refers to having enough oxygen and can be used to replace the full term, oxidation atmosphere.

Corrosionpedia explains Oxidizing Atmosphere

Oxidizing atmosphere refers to a gaseous atmosphere in which an oxidation reaction occurs, usually the oxidation of solids.

The best example of this is an oxyfuel cutting torch: the excess oxygen burns through the metal. A less extreme example might be a pottery kiln, where an oxidizing atmosphere keeps metal oxide pigments from giving up their oxygen to the burning fuel. An oxidizing flame can damage crucibles and refractory, and produces more dross than a neutral flame.

In an oxidizing atmosphere, such as ours, the dynamic equilibrium favors conversion of the following to higher oxidation states:

  • Surface minerals
  • Compounds
  • Released gases

An abundance of molecular oxygen and the presence of sunlight favor oxidation of our atmosphere. In an oxidizing atmosphere, many compounds containing little or no oxygen will tend to combine with oxygen-forming oxides.

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