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Last updated: August 10, 2019

What Does Reduction Mean?

Reduction is the transfer of electrons between species in a chemical reaction where there is a process of gaining electrons or a decrease in the oxidation state by an element.

A reduction chemical reaction involves increasing electrons associated with a single atom or a group of atoms. A reduced atom therefore accepts electrons from another atom. The atom which supplies the electrons is thereby oxidized.


Corrosionpedia Explains Reduction

In a chemical reaction, reduction and oxidation take place side by side, where the loss of electrons in one substance is oxidation, but the transfer of these lost electrons to another element is reduction. Depending on the type of chemical reaction, reduction may involve molecules, atoms or ions.

An example of a reduction reaction is when oxygen reacts with iron to form rust. In this reaction oxygen is reduced because it accepts electrons from iron, which is oxidized.

The reduction process is used in many ways, including:

  • Reducing ores to obtain metals
  • Producing electrochemical cells
  • Converting ammonia to nitric acid

Reduction reactions are common when working with acids and bases and other electrochemical processes, and it is vital for biochemical reactions and industrial processes.

Reduction takes place for the following reasons:

  • When a carbon atom gains bonds to less electronegative elements, the affinity of elements to electronegative may vary.
  • Electrons discharged are added to an atom or ion, usually removing oxygen or adding hydrogen.

Historically, the loss of weight upon heating metallic ore to extract the metal due to loss of oxygen was called reduction. Later scientists discovered and explained that the metal atom gains electrons in this process. Thus, the meaning of reduction was generalized as process involving gain of electrons or loss of oxygen. However, the process of reduction can occur without the participation of oxygen. The terminology has now expanded, and according to its modern definition, it includes similar reactions or any chemical change in which an element gains electrons.


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