Understanding Oxidizing Agents in 2CuO + C

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In summary, the conversation discusses the question of which substance is the oxidizing agent in the given chemical reaction. While CuO is identified as the oxidizing agent in the online program being used for homework, there is confusion around this identification due to the fact that Cu, the reducing agent, appears to gain electrons while CuO is a reactant and does not exist after the reaction. The expert summarizes that the reaction involves mixing two black solids and getting a bright metal and a gas as products, and confirms that CuO cannot be separated into its components to identify Cu as the oxidizing agent. The conversation concludes with a discussion on the memorization aspect of chemistry and how it eventually leads to understanding of exceptions and general rules.
  • #1
Drakkith
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Homework Statement



Which substance is the oxidizing agent in this reaction? 2CuO + C = 2Cu + CO2

Homework Equations



2CuO + C = 2Cu + CO2

The Attempt at a Solution



According to the online program I'm using for homework, CuO is the oxidizing agent, but I don't understand why. The oxidizing agent is the substance that gained electrons. Cu had an oxidation state of +2 prior to the reaction, and ends up gaining electrons to form neutral Cu. Each oxygen had an oxidation state of -2 prior to the reaction and ends up with -2 after the reaction. Carbon has an oxidation state of zero prior to the reaction and ends up with +4 after the reaction since it is reduced.

So 4 electrons are taken from carbon and given to 2 copper atoms. Shouldn't Cu be the oxidizing agent here? CuO doesn't even exist after the reaction, so how can it have gained electrons?
 
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  • #2
All you want to look at is the reactant, no deeper details such as which metal oxide you're using to oxidize C, or the specific mechanism. Sorting "spectators" like K+ from chemistries of aqueous solutions can be arbitrary, and sorting oxidizer, oxidizing agent, can be equally arbitrary, but the reaction as written involves mixing two black solids and getting a bright metal and a gas as products, one reactant was oxidized, and one reactant was reduced. You can also look at it from the point of view that CuO is a way of identifying a specific oxidized copper compound to use in the reaction reducing copper.
 
  • #3
So you're saying that since CuO is a reactant, you can't separate the Cu out of it and say that Cu was the oxidizing agent?
 
  • #4
Correct.
 
  • #5
Thanks Bystander.
 
  • #6
Anytime. Chemistry can be "arbitrary" at times.
 
  • #7
Eh. It's the memorization that's killing me.
 
  • #8
Been there --- enough rote memory will eventually reach a critical mass in which "contexts" will begin to take shape, and you'll be able to start memorizing exceptions to general rules rather than everything that's presented.
 

Related to Understanding Oxidizing Agents in 2CuO + C

1. What is the oxidizing agent in the reaction 2CuO + C?

The oxidizing agent in this reaction is CuO, also known as copper(II) oxide. It is an inorganic compound that contains copper and oxygen atoms.

2. How does CuO act as an oxidizing agent in this reaction?

In this reaction, CuO accepts electrons from the carbon (C) atom, causing it to become oxidized. This results in the reduction of CuO to copper (Cu), as it loses oxygen atoms.

3. What role does carbon play in this reaction?

Carbon acts as the reducing agent in this reaction. It donates electrons to CuO, causing it to become reduced and form copper metal (Cu).

4. What are the products of this reaction?

The products of this reaction are copper (Cu) and carbon monoxide (CO). The CuO is reduced to form copper metal, while the carbon (C) is oxidized to form CO.

5. Is this reaction exothermic or endothermic?

This reaction is exothermic, meaning it releases energy in the form of heat. This is because the products (Cu and CO) have a lower energy state than the reactants (CuO and C).

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