Encyclopedia > Half-reaction

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Half reactions are obtained by considering the change in oxidation states of individual substances involved in a reduction/oxidation reaction.

Consider the reaction below:

(1) Cl2 + 2Fe2+ -> 2Cl- + 2Fe3+

The two elements involved, iron and chlorine, each change oxidation state - iron from 2+ to 3+, chlorine from 0 to 1-. There are then effectively two half-reactions occurring. These changes can be represented in formulas by inserting appropriate electrons in to each half-reaction:

 (3) Fe2+ -> Fe3+ + e- 
 (4) Cl2 + 2e- -> 2Cl-   

In the same way given two half-reactions it is possible, with knowledge of appropriate electrode potentials, to arrive at the full (original) reaction.

See also: Electrode potential

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