Periodic Tables

The Periodic Table of Oxidation States

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 replies on “The Periodic Table of Oxidation States”

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?

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.

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

“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”?

[…] Your challenge now is to make a better battery based on fruits or vegetables. You may use the whole fruit, as we did with our lemon battery, or use just the juice, as we did with the Supersized Cell. Our lemon batteries used zinc and copper as electrodes. You can try other metals. Our experience with the supersize cell also indicates that the size of the electrodes matters. We tried some experiments with grapefruits. The voltage was 0.75 V, close to what it was before, but the current was only 0.1 mA. Galvanic Cell. The Periodic Table of Oxidation States. […]

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…

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.

I presume you’re referring to around lawrencium onwards here, as some of the elements after uranium (e.g. plutonium) have well-known oxidation states.

You’re correct that most of them exist for a very limited amount of time, but even with these short lifespans, some compounds have been able to be generated (often with halogens). There’s a quick run-down below of the evidence for the oxidation states indicated on the table for some of the least stable:

Dubnium +5: observed in dubnium pentachloride (ref:

Seaborgium +6: observed in seaborgium oxide hydroxide (ref:

Bohrium +7: observed in bohrium oxychloride (ref:

Hassium +8: observed in hassium tetroxide (ref:

It’s likely they have other stable oxidation states too, but of course the chemistry it’s possible to do with them is much more limited due to their short-lived nature.

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