Name: Bryan B.
Date: 2001 - 2002
I was told by my high school chemistry teacher that the
oxidation number of peroxide is misleading because it is not really
-1. He said that -1 is not its charge, but a fictitious oxidation
number. I was wondering what the real oxidation number was, and why we
assign it a fictitious number of -1.
The term "fictitious" as used here does not mean "fake", rather it is a
number assigned to a compound that denotes how many electrons a compound
will "donate" or "accept" in an oxidation/reduction chemical reaction. A
given compound may have more than one oxidation number depending upon what
it is reacting with. Some simple examples are Cl2 ----> 2Cl(-)
where the oxidation number is -1 per atom or -2 per molecule and Na ----->
Na(+) is +1.
Electron donors are assigned positive numbers and electron acceptors are
assigned negative numbers. Maybe a better term would have been
"conventional" rather than "fictitious".
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Update: June 2012