Balancing Redox Reactions via the Half-Reaction Method

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Illustration of a redox reaction. Source: By Bensaccount at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain,

Balancing Redox Reactions via the Half-Reaction Method (OpenStax Chemistry 2e)

Redox reactions that take place in aqueous media often involve water, hydronium ions, and hydroxide ions as reactants or products. Although these species are not oxidized or reduced, they do participate in chemical change in other ways (e.g., by providing the elements required to form oxyanions). Equations representing these reactions are sometimes very difficult to balance by inspection, so systematic approaches have been developed to assist in the process. One very useful approach is to use the method of half-reactions, which involves the following steps:

1. Write the two half-reactions representing the redox process.

2. Balance all elements except oxygen and hydrogen.

3. Balance oxygen atoms by adding H2O molecules.

4. Balance hydrogen atoms by adding H+ ions.

5. Balance charge by adding electrons.

6. If necessary, multiply each half-reaction’s coefficients by the smallest possible integers to yield equal numbers of electrons in each.

7. Add the balanced half-reactions together and simplify by removing species that appear on both sides of the equation.

8. For reactions occurring in basic media (excess hydroxide ions), carry out these additional steps:

  • Add OH ions to both sides of the equation in numbers equal to the number of H+ ions.
  • On the side of the equation containing both H+ and OH ions, combine these ions to yield water molecules.
  • Simplify the equation by removing any redundant water molecules.

9. Finally, check to see that both the number of atoms and the total charges are balanced.

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Flowers, P., Theopold, K., Langley, R., & Robinson, W. R. (2019, February 14). Chemistry 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at:


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