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An oxide is a chemical compound containing at least one oxygen atom as well as at least one other element. Most of the Earth's crust consists of oxides. Oxides result when elements are oxidized by oxygen in air. Combustion of hydrocarbons affords the two principal oxides of carbon, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Even materials that are considered to be pure elements often contain a coating of oxides. For example, aluminium foil has a thin skin of Al2O3 that protects the foil from further corrosion.


Most oxides are insoluble in water

The oxide ion, O2−, is the conjugate base of the hydroxide ion, OH, and is encountered in ionic solid such as calcium oxide. O2− is unstable in aqueous solution − its affinity for H+ is so great (pKb ~ −22) that it abstracts a proton from a solvent H2O molecule:

O2− + H2O → 2 OH

Although many anions are stable in aqueous solution, ionic oxides are not. For example, sodium chloride dissolves readily in water to give a solution containing the constituent ions, Na+ and Cl. Oxides do not behave like this. If an ionic oxide dissolves, the O2− ions become protonated. Although calcium oxide, CaO, is said to "dissolve" in water, the products include hydroxide:

CaO + H2O → Ca2+ + 2 OH-

In fact, no monoatomic dianion is known to dissolve in water - all are so basic that they undergo hydrolysis. Concentrations of oxide ion in water are too low to be detectable with current technology.

Authentic soluble oxides do exist, but they release oxyanions, not O2−. Well known soluble salts of oxyanions include sodium sulfate (Na2SO4), potassium permanganate (KMnO4), and sodium nitrate (NaNO3).


In the 18th century, oxides were named calxes or calces after the calcination process used to produce oxides. Calx was later replaced by oxyd.

Oxides are usually named after the number of oxygen atoms in the oxide. Oxides containing only one oxygen are called oxides or monoxides, those containing two oxygen atoms are dioxides, three oxygen atoms makes it a trioxide, four oxygen atoms are tetroxides, and so on following the Greek numerical prefixes.

Two other types of oxide are peroxide, O22−, and superoxide, O2. In such species, oxygen is assigned higher oxidation states than oxide.

Types of oxides

Oxides of more electropositive elements tend to be basic. They are called basic anhydrides; adding water, they may form basic hydroxides. For example, sodium oxide is basic; when hydrated, it forms sodium hydroxide.

Oxides of more electronegative elements tend to be acidic. They are called acid anhydrides; adding water, they form oxoacids. For example, dichlorine heptoxide is acid; perchloric acid is a more hydrated form.

Some oxides can act as both acid and base at different times. They are amphoteric. An example is aluminium oxide. Some oxides do not show behavior as either acid or base.

The oxides of the chemical elements in their highest oxidation state are predictable and the chemical formula can be derived from the number of valence electrons for that element. Even the chemical formula of O4, tetraoxygen, is predictable as a group 16 element. One exception is copper for which the highest oxidation state oxide is copper(II) oxide and not copper(I) oxide. Another exception is fluoride that does not exist as expected as F2O7 but as OF2 with the least electronegative element given priority. [1]. Phosphorus pentoxide, the third exception is not properly represented by the chemical formula P2O5 but by P4O10

List of all known oxides sorted by oxidation state

See also


  1. ^ Fully Exploiting the Potential of the Periodic Table through Pattern Recognition Schultz, Emeric. J. Chem. Educ. 2005 82 1649.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Oxide". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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