Advantages and Disadvantages of Oxidation


An oxidation reaction is always involved with reduction reaction. The combination of oxidation and reduction reactions is commonly called as redox reaction. Let’s first discuss what are oxidation and reduction reactions? An oxidation reaction can be defined as addition of oxygen or removal of electrons while in a reduction process, the species involves in the addition of hydrogen or removal of oxygen or addition of electrons. In a redox process both oxidation and reduction process occurs simultaneously.

In other words; one species donates electrons while another accept it.  Oxidation process can be observed in our surrounding also which may or may not good for us. In any of the oxidation process the oxidation number of specie increases due to lose of electrons. Let’s discuss some oxidation reactions which are found in many surroundings such as plants, animals, metals, foods and machines with their advantages and disadvantages.

Photosynthesis is one of the most common process which involves both oxidation and reduction steps. It involves the reaction of CO2 with H2O and leads to the formation of organic molecules such as C6H12O6 with O2 gas. Here water is oxidised while CO2 gets reduced to form glucose molecule.  Hence it is one of the useful redox or oxidation-reduction process which results the formation of food for all the living organisms. Combustion is another advantage of oxidation which occurs with the liberation of large amount of energy in the form of heat.

For example combustion of coal forms CO2 by the oxidation of carbon and also forms water vapour. The oxidation of metal surfaces is a slow oxidation process which converts the metal into metal oxidise which is commonly called as rust. The formation of rust deteriorates the metal surface and one of the major disadvantages of oxidation of active metal surfaces. For example the rusting over iron surface is due to the formation of Fe2O3 which is reddish-brown in colour. Similarly the oxidation of copper metal surface results the formation of greenish coating of copper oxide. Another example of oxidation-reduction process is batteries which can flow the electricity in the electrical circuit due to oxidation and reduction reactions over electrodes. The fuel of the space shuttle is also making use of Oxidation-reduction reactions.

Rancidity or spoiling of food is also occurred due to oxidation reaction fatty acids or oils found in the food. The oxidation of food can be prevented with the use of anti-oxidant and other food preservatives. The aging in human beings is also due to the oxidation process in which oxidants extract electrons from the cell membranes and causes a gradual cleavage of immune system of human body. The presence of natural or artificial antioxidants like vitamin C and E can prevent this oxidation.

The oxidation can also observe in fruits and vegetables such as cut surface of fruits and vegetables turns brown due to oxidation process. The cover or skin of fruit prevents this oxidation but as we cut it, the inner part comes in contact with air and oxidised. Natural antioxidants like vitamin C can be used to prevent this oxidation such as if we apply lemon juice on the cut surface of an apple, it prevents the apple surface to turn brown.