A reducing agent is a chemical that reduces an oxidised species. Reduction is either loss of oxygen (e.g. Copper oxide (copper ore) becoming copper)
What do we see with our own eyes when smelting (reduction) takes place? Is it reasonable for me to say that the constituents of the copper oxide (the ore) break up due to the oxygen escaping in the form of gas, while the copper itself drops into a liquid state?
Copper ore is copper oxide. Carbon is an element
Copper oxide + carbon forms copper + carbon dioxide
The only way I’ll be able to make sense of that is to visualize it in action. What do I see with my own eyes when we smelt copper ore, and why am I seeing what I’m seeing?
In this case, the copper oxide has been reduced to copper by the carbon, so the carbon is called a reducing agent.
What percentage of the ore is copper? Is it a very small percent? If so, where does all of that excess mineral go? What does the separation process look like, if I were to witness it?
Conversely, the carbon has been oxidised to carbon dioxide by the copper oxide.
So somehow, the carbon elements fuse with oxygen, creating carbon dioxide?
So the copper oxide is called an oxidising agent.
So for smelting to take place, on the one hand we need a reducing agent, and then on the other hand we need an oxidizing agent.
Each, the oxidizing and reducing agents, have a structure. The oxidizing agent, is a compound, whereas the reducing agent, carbon, isn’t. The key is to, via heat, loosen the up carbon’s structure, as well as loosen up the structure of copper oxide, so that it’s components slip out of each others possession. The oxygen gets sucked out of the possession of copper, into the possession of carbon. When it’s heated, carbon is made capable of gaining possession of the oxygen.
This happens because carbon is more reactive than copper so it is more likely to form compounds, whereas copper is more likely to be stable as an element (because it is less reactive than copper).
Hmmm. That interests me very much. Why is one element more reactive than another?
When a more reactive species displaces a more reactive species (as carbon displaces the copper from the copper oxide, to form an oxide of its own), it is called displacement.
If I understand you correctly, the copper oxide becomes vulnerable to being displaced because of the heat. When the copper oxide(the ore) reaches a certain temperature, it’s components become loosened from each other, and thus, the oxide ‘slips out’, getting sucked out of copper’s possession, and into the possession of carbon.
Or am I way off here?