Before entering fully into the definition of the term oxidizer, we are going to proceed to know what its etymological origin is. In this case, we can determine that it is a word that derives from Latin, exactly from “comburentis” which can be translated as “which causes it to ignite.” That Latin word that is the result of the sum of three clearly differentiated elements:
-The prefix “with”, which is equivalent to “all” or “together”.
-The verb “burere”, which is synonymous with “burn”.
-The suffix “-nte”, which is used to indicate “agent”.
An oxidizer is a substance that generates the development of combustion.
Combustion is the act and result of burning (subjecting to fire). At the chemical level, combustion involves the oxidation of a substance through a process in which energy is released as light and heat. This reaction is generated between an oxidizable material capable of burning, which is called fuel, and a material that produces combustion, called oxidizer.
The oxidizer causes the fuel to oxidize, releasing chemical energy that can be used as mechanical energy. For combustion to start, fuel must reach its ignition temperature (when its vapors ignite spontaneously). It should be noted that the reaction between fuel and oxidizer manifests itself through flames.
Because it is responsible for oxidizing another substance, the oxidizer is also called an oxidizing agent. In the reduction-oxidation (redox) reaction, the oxidizer gains electrons when it is reduced, while the reducer (the fuel in a combustion process) loses electrons when it oxidizes.
The oxygen is the most common oxidizer. A minimum of oxygen is required in all combustion processes, which can appear in a gaseous or liquid state. A firearm that uses gunpowder, for example, may use the salt of an oxyacid (such as potassium chlorate) in the cartridge to achieve the combustion that allows the projectile to fire.
Although oxygen is the quintessential oxidizer, we cannot ignore the existence of others that are very relevant. We are referring to some as the following:
-Nitrates, among which lithium nitrate, silver nitrate, ammonium nitrate or sodium nitrate stand out, for example.
-Chlorates, as would be the case of copper chlorate, magnesium chlorate or calcium chlorate.
-Permanganates, such as zinc permanganate, potassium permanganate or calcium permanganate.
-Organic peroxides: acetylacetone peroxide, tert-butyl peroxyacetate and tert-butyl monoperoximaleate.
There is a list of oxidizers in which peroxics, halogens, ozone, nitric acid, perchlorates, chlorites or chromic acid should not be overlooked, among many others that can also be used for promote combustion.