Reducing Agent

Definition - What does Reducing Agent mean?

A reducing agent is an element or compound that loses an electron to another chemical species in a redox reaction. It is a substance that causes another substance to undergo reduction and that is oxidized in the process.

Reducing agents are important in industrial applications. They are used in processes like:

  • Purifying water
  • Bleaching fabrics
  • Storing energy (such as in batteries and gasoline).

Reducing agents are especially crucial in biological processes, and can produce corrosion.

Reducing agents are also known as reductants.

Corrosionpedia explains Reducing Agent

A reducing agent loses electrons in a chemical reaction. It typically is in one of its lowest possible oxidation states and is known as the electron donor. It is oxidized because it loses electrons in the redox reaction.

Some reducing agents include:

  • Earth metals
  • Formic acid
  • Sulfite compounds

If one chemical is an electron donor (reducing agent), another must be an electron recipient (oxidizing agent). A reducing agent is oxidized because it loses electrons in the redox reaction. Thus, reducers are oxidized by oxidizers and oxidizers are reduced by reducers.

In organic chemistry, good reducing agents are reagents that deliver hydrogen. Strong reducing agents easily lose (or donate) electrons. The reducing agent is stronger when it has a more positive oxidation potential and weaker when it has a negative oxidation potential.

Reducing agents cause corrosion, which requires an anode and cathode to take place. The anode is an element that loses electrons (reducing agent), thus oxidation always occurs in the anode, while the cathode is an element that gains electrons (oxidizing agent), thus reduction always occurs in the cathode. Corrosion occurs whenever there is a difference in oxidation potential. When this is present, the anode metal begins corroding, given there is an electrical connection and the presence of an electrolyte.

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