Oxidation States of Carbon

In organic chemistry, the oxidation of a carbon atom can be recognized by:

Reduction is just the reverse. Furthermore, increasing alkylation is the equivalent of increasing numbers of hydrogens; that is, it is the same as reduction. Here is a chart to illustrate these relationships:

The important connection we want to keep in mind is that moving upward in this chart requires an oxidizing agent, whereas moving downward requires a reducing agent. If no species lies above a particular entry in the chart, it cannot be oxidized. If nothing lies below it, it is in the lowest oxidation state possible, and cannot be reduced.

This page last modified 12:20 PM on Thursday March 1st, 2001.
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