Oxidation Reduction Reactions

Oxidation/reduction reactions are a general class of reactions where one molecule loses electrons (it is oxidized) and another molecule gains electrons (it is reduced). Transition metal catalysts can be very useful for oxidation/reduction reactions because their outer electrons are especially susceptible to oxidation and reduction. If an oxidized transition metal runs into a molecule it can take electrons from that molecule, thereby oxidizing the molecule. If a reduced transition metal runs into a molecule it can give the molecule electrons and reduce it. Because transition metals are easier to oxidize and reduce than other elements, this process goes faster!

In the picture below an alcohol is oxidized to a ketone by a palladium catalyst (the alcohol and ketone groups are shown in red).

Things to Think About