- Oxidation is the loss of electrons or an increase in the oxidation state of a chemical or atoms within it.
- Reduction is the gain of electrons or a decrease in the oxidation state of a chemical or atoms within it.
There are two classes of redox reactions:
- electron-transfer where only one (usually) electron flows from the reducing agent to the oxidant. This type of redox reaction is often discussed in term of redox couples and electrode potentials.
- atom transfer, where an atom transfers from one substrate to another. For example, in the rusting of iron, the oxidation state of iron atoms increases as it converts to an oxide and simultaneously the oxidation state of oxygen decreases as it accepts electrons released by iron. Although oxidation reactions are commonly associated with the formation of oxides, other chemical species can serve the same function. In hydrogenation, C=C (and other) bonds are reduced by transfer of hydrogen atoms.