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# BALANCING OXIDATION REDUCTION EQUATIONS

Describing the overall electrochemical reaction for a redox process requires a balancing of the component halfreactions for oxidation and reduction. In general, for reactions in aqueous solution, this involves adding H+, OH, H2O, and electrons to compensate for the oxidation changes.

## Balancing Redox Reactions Using the Oxidation Number Method

Example Equation:
HNO3 (aq) + H3AsO3 (aq)
(l)

## NO (g) + H3AsO4 (aq) + H2O

Step 1
Try to balance the atoms by inspection.

The H and O atoms are difficult to balance in this equation. You might arrive at the correct balanced equation using a trial and error technique, but if you do not discover the correct coefficients fairly quickly, proceed to Step #3.

Step 3
Is the reaction redox?

The N atoms change from +5 to +2, so they are reduced. This information is enough to tell us that the reaction is redox. (The As atoms, which change from +3 to +5, are oxidized.)

Step 4
Determine the net increase in oxidation number for the element that is oxidized and the net decrease in oxidation number for the element that is

As +3 to +5 N +5 to +2

## Net Change = +2 Net Change = -3

Step 5
Determine a ratio of oxidized to reduced atoms that would yield a net increase in oxidation number equal to the net decrease in oxidation

As atoms would yield a net increase in oxidation number of +6. (Six electrons would be lost by three arsenic atoms.) 2 N atoms would yield a net decrease of -6. (Two nitrogen atoms would gain six electrons.) Thus the ratio of As atoms to N atoms is 3:2.

Step 6
To get the ratio identified in Step 5, add coefficients to the formulas which contain the elements whose oxidation number is changing.

(l)

## NO (g) + H3AsO4 (aq) + H2O

Step 7
Balance the rest of the equation by inspection.
2HNO3(aq) + 3H3AsO3(aq)

## The Half Reaction Method for Balancing Redox Reactions

This method assumes the reaction occurs in aqueous, acidic solution where H2O and H are plentiful. If the reaction occurs in a basic solution, this method allows you to correct for that fact at the end

Step 1
Assign oxidation states to all atoms in the reactants and products. (Refer to the Rules for Assigning Oxidation States)

Step 2
Remove spectator ions from the equation, if any occur, except for those containing only H and/or O.

Step 3
Write two half-reactions, one for oxidation and one for reduction. If you have multiple oxidations, put them all together in one half reaction. Do the same if you have multiple reductions.

Step 4
Balance each half-reaction as follows:

## Balance each half-reaction as follows:

1)

2)

Balance all elements other than oxygen and hydrogen. Balance oxygen by adding the appropriate number of water molecules (H2O) to the side of the equation that needs more oxygen atoms.

3.

4)

Balance hydrogen by adding the appropriate number of hydrogen ions (H+) to the side of the equation that needs more hydrogen atoms. Balance the charge by adding the appropriate number of electrons to the side of the equation with the greater overall positive charge.

Step 5
Multiply each half-reaction by a whole number so that the electrons lost in the oxidation halfreaction equal the number of electrons gained in the reduction half-reaction.

Step 6
Add the two half reactions together, keeping all of the reactants together on the left side of the reaction arrow and all of the products together on the right side of the reaction arrow. The electrons will cancel so they are not shown in the final equation.

Step 7
Cancel any substances that appear on both sides of the equation. Check to make sure that the equation is balanced. If you removed spectator ions before you wrote the halfreactions, put them back in and balance by inspection.

Step 8

If your reaction occurs in a basic solution, you must also do the following. Remove any H+ from the equation by adding an equal number of OH-ions to both sides of the equation. Remember that H+ + OH- forms H2O so you can replace the H+ and OH- that occur on the same side with an equal number of H2O. Now cancel any water molecules that appear on both sides of the