Oxidant Definition in Chemistry

What Oxidants Are and How They Work

This is the hazard symbol for oxidants.
This is the hazard symbol for oxidants.

Oxidant Definition

An oxidant is a reactant that oxidizes or removes electrons from other reactants during a redox reaction. An oxidant may also be called an oxidizer or oxidizing agent. When the oxidant includes oxygen, it may be called an oxygenation reagent or oxygen-atom transfer (OT) agent.

How Oxidants Work

An oxidant is a chemical species that removes one or more electrons from another reactant in a chemical reaction.

In this context, any oxidizing agent in a redox reaction may be considered an oxidant. Here, the oxidant is the electron receptor, while the reducing agent is the electron donor. Some oxidants transfer electronegative atoms to a substrate. Usually the electronegative atom is oxygen, but it can be another electronegative element or ion.

Oxidant Examples

While an oxidant technically doesn't require oxygen to remove electrons, most common oxidizers do contain the element. The halogens are an example of oxidants that don't contain oxygen. Oxidants participate in combustion, organic redox reactions, and more explosives.

Examples of oxidants include:

  • hydrogen peroxide
  • ozone
  • nitric acid
  • sulfuric acid
  • oxygen
  • sodium perborate
  • nitrous oxide
  • potassium nitrate
  • sodium bismuthate
  • hypochlorite and household bleach
  • halogens such as Cl2 and F2

Oxidants As Dangerous Substances

An oxidizing agent that can cause or aid combustion is considered a dangerous material.

Not every oxidant is hazardous in this manner. For example, potassium dichromate is an oxidant, yet is not considered a dangerous substance in terms of transport.

Oxidizing chemicals which are deemed hazardous are marked with a specific hazard symbol. The symbol features a ball and flames.