Periodic Table of Oxidation States 2016
Click to enlarge

There are a whole host of periodic tables out there, and I’ve already added to the pile with a periodic table of data previously. Today’s post is another variation on the theme: a periodic table showing the possible and common oxidation states of every element. I was looking for one of these last week, out of interest, and couldn’t find one that presented the information in an easy-to-comprehend manner. To try to solve that, I made the table you can see at the top of the post here.

For non-chemists, it’s probably worth clarifying exactly what we mean by ‘oxidation state’. This is actually quite an easy concept for chemists to use, but a tricky one to define. It’s essentially a number assigned to an element in a compound, and (at a basic level) denotes the number of electrons that have been either removed from or added to that element. An element that is not combined with any other different elements has an oxidation state of 0, because it has had no electrons added or removed.

An atom of an element in a compound will have a positive oxidation state if it has had electrons removed. This might initially seem counter-intuitive, but remember that electrons are negatively charged. Removing negative charges from an atom results, therefore, in a positive oxidation state. Similarly, adding electrons results in a negative oxidation state. The sum of all of the oxidation states of the various elements in a compound should be zero.

If your only experience of chemistry is from back in school, you might remember the concept of ions – atoms that have gained or lost electrons to form positively or negatively charged ions. For example, sodium (Na) can lose an electron to form sodium ions (Na+). These have an oxidation state of +1, the same as the charge on the ion. Similarly, iron (Fe) can lost two electrons to form the Fe2+ ion, or lose three electrons to form the Fe3+ ion. These have oxidation numbers of +2 & +3 respectively. With a chlorine ion (a chlorine atom that has gained one electron, Cl), the oxidation number would be –1.

Oxidation state 0 occurs for all elements – it is simply the element in its elemental form. As the table shows, the presence of the other oxidation states varies, but follows some patterns. The common oxidation states of all of the metals in the periodic table are all positive. All of the non-metals in the table, on the other hand, have at least one common negative oxidation state. The d block metals, shown on the table in yellow, have the widest range of oxidation states.

Atoms of the same element with different oxidation states can have different properties. The most obvious of these from an outward perspective is colour, ably illustrated by the d block elements. Most of these have a handful of common oxidation states, and this are distinguished by their different colours. The origin of these different colours is explained in a previous post on the site here.

This has been the shortest of introductions to oxidation state, but hopefully it’s enough to at least partially demystify the graphic above for non-chemists. There’s certainly scope for a future post explaining oxidation states, and how to work them out, in more detail! In the meantime, you can grab a PDF download of this graphic below, or purchase it as a poster here.

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References & Further Reading

18 CommentsClose Comments


  • Θ³Σx² - ∂³Σx² - ΘΣ
    Posted November 17, 2015 at 4:13 pm 0Likes

    The graphics you obtain here is not the Oxidation State Table…Check it! 🙂

    • Compound Interest
      Posted November 17, 2015 at 4:17 pm 0Likes

      You’re right! Thanks for the very prompt check 🙂 Fixed now!

      • Θ³Σx² - ∂³Σx² - ΘΣ
        Posted November 17, 2015 at 4:27 pm 0Likes

        You’re welcome. I have a question…Did you make that table with laTeX…I have my own periodic table, English and Spanish, based on aTikz file I found in the we. I would be interested to make the Spanish version of THIS TABLE and return it to you if you give the source file. Of course, the copyright/copyleft would you remain to you. Are you interested?

        • Compound Interest
          Posted November 17, 2015 at 4:52 pm 0Likes

          The table was made primarily using InDesign. However, there’s not a lot of text that needs translating, so if you’re able to send across the translated text (you can get in contact via the about page) then I could look at plugging it in to create a Spanish version.

          • Θ³Σx² - ∂³Σx² - ΘΣ
            Posted December 7, 2015 at 7:42 pm 0Likes

            I sent you an e-mail with the typos of the Spanish translation, have you got it? Let me know :). Best regards, Amarashiki.

  • Chris Parsons
    Posted November 17, 2015 at 4:17 pm 0Likes

    Fantastic graphic. I’d love to download the pdf but the link takes me to another info-graphic?

    • Compound Interest
      Posted November 17, 2015 at 4:17 pm 0Likes

      Sorry about that, forgot to update the link! Should be fixed now.

      • Chris Parsons
        Posted November 17, 2015 at 4:19 pm 0Likes

        Perfect, thanks!

  • EmptyJay
    Posted November 17, 2015 at 4:25 pm 0Likes

    “Fe2+ ion, or lose three electrons to form the Fe3+ ion. These have oxidation numbers of +1 & +2 respectively”

    Shouldn’t that be “+2 & +3 respectively”?

    • Compound Interest
      Posted November 17, 2015 at 4:27 pm 0Likes

      Certainly should. Staring at circles all evening yesterday has clearly fried my brain! Thanks for the spot, now corrected.

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  • Andres Tretiakov
    Posted November 17, 2015 at 4:37 pm 0Likes

    With a chlorine ion (a chlorine atom that has lost one electron, Cl–), the oxidation number would be –1. Should be gained instead of lost an electron I think…

    • Compound Interest
      Posted November 17, 2015 at 4:49 pm 0Likes

      It should! Clearly had a bit of a mare writing (and proof-reading that paragraph)… Now fixed.

  • Ratus Ribou
    Posted November 17, 2015 at 5:32 pm 0Likes

    I pretty sure that Thorium main oxidation state is IV but I might be wrong ^^

    • Compound Interest
      Posted November 17, 2015 at 9:23 pm 0Likes

      You’re not! It’s fixed on the larger image and PDF now 🙂

  • tz1
    Posted November 19, 2015 at 12:03 am 0Likes

    You really know the oxidation states of the elements far past Uranium? Most don’t exist for more than a fraction of a second and don’t seem to parallel those just above in the table.

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