Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

A question regarding oxidation numbers

  1. Sep 17, 2009 #1
    How come atoms have only a few oxidation numbers they can assume? For example, Cl can have the oxidation numbers -1, 1, 3, 5, 7. What prevents it from having an oxidation number of say, 2 or 4?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 17, 2009 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Nothing prevents it. It's just energetically unfavorable. That is, the other states have significantly lower energy.

    You can really dive in here with how 'deeply' you want to explain it, but to just give the cursory, simplest answer: Chlorine has an odd number of valence electrons (7). If it gained or lost an even number, it'd still have an odd number. The resulting compound would be a radical, which are generally high in energy.
  4. Sep 17, 2009 #3


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Who told you chlorine doesn't have compounds with ON 2 and 4?



    Just remember that oxidation number is just a number assigned to atoms using some simple rules to help in balancing redox reactions. There is a logic behind, but there is no measurable property of the atom that reflects assigned oxidation numbers.

  5. Sep 17, 2009 #4
    I get it now. Thanks for the help.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook