Electron Transfer: What You Didn’t Know

Electron Transfer: What You Didn’t Know

Electron transfer, also known as oxidation-reduction, is the transfer of electrons from one species to another in either solution or in solid state. It is an essential component of all redox reactions and plays an important role in both biochemical and geological processes.

Given the prominence of electron transfer, it’s surprising how little we actually know about it! Many questions remain unanswered about the nature of this process; indeed, there are many more questions than answers! Here we will discuss some of the more pertinent facts regarding electron transfer, including when this process occurs, what it occurs between, and what factors affect its rate.


Electrons are packets of energy that are transferred in different ways to create electrical energy. Electrons transfer from one atom to another when an electron donor donates its electrons to an electron acceptor or receptor. Understanding how these energies and properties work together is important for understanding processes like photosynthesis, respiration, rusting and corrosion. One of these processes, called redox reaction involves electron transfer that determines what type of reaction takes place. Redox reactions can be further broken down into oxidation-reduction reactions (where oxidation is a loss of electrons and reduction is a gain of electrons) and single-electron transfer reactions. The process occurs naturally as plants use it to convert sunlight into energy during photosynthesis. In humans, it occurs during cellular respiration as oxygen reduces glucose molecules during metabolic processes. In other words, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to electron transfers!

And In biological systems, electrons must pass from one molecule to another
from a substance (food) to our cells, or from our cells to an external substance (disease). This process is called electron transfer. Electrons can be transferred in a variety of ways. For example, if you consume vitamin C, your body uses it as an electron donor and transfers it to something else that needs one, such as iron. Scientists have also discovered that electrons are transferred between two molecules even when they aren’t touching each other! To learn more about how these amazing processes work.

Electron Pooling

Electrons are easily transferred around between molecules. If a molecule has too many electrons, they can be transferred to another molecule that needs them. Electron pooling occurs when electrons move easily from one molecule to another without much energy being lost during movement.

In, fact in electron pooling, energy is conserved because an electron that is absorbed by one molecule is released as heat and light. This process can lead to redox reactions in which atoms within molecules switch oxidation states and undergo chemical change. It’s important to note that not all redox reactions involve electron transfer; some involve proton transfer or other types of exchange.

The active site

In electron transfer, a central role is played by a specific portion of an enzyme known as its active site. This special pocket receives and holds one atom that has been detached from a donor molecule and donated to another acceptor molecule.

A single enzyme can utilize multiple active sites, but these each must be tailored for specific pairs of donor and acceptor molecules. An enzyme in which all sites use glucose as a donor, for example, would not function with methylene blue (donating hydrogen) or vitamin C (which donates electrons).

Enzymes are typically named after their substrates—the substances they act upon—and are designated by acronyms formed from their first letter and those of their substrates. Thus, glucose oxidase becomes GOx; lactate dehydrogenase becomes LDH; and so on.

The enzymes themselves are very complex proteins consisting of hundreds or thousands of amino acids folded into a three-dimensional shape that allows them to bind tightly to their substrate(s), break chemical bonds, donate electrons, receive electrons, change shape (conformational changes), etc., as needed.

Excited State of Enzyme

Enzymes are simply proteins that act as catalysts. However, they require a little bit of energy to get them in their excited state. Once they are in their excited state, they can initiate chemical reactions and transfer electrons without requiring external energy sources. For example, when you bite into an apple and break down its components through chewing, your salivary amylase gets excited. Excited amylase triggers starch degradation, leading to lower levels of glucose in your mouth. Glucose is then further broken down by salivary alpha-amylase enzymes into various monosaccharides like maltose. All these small steps eventually lead to a tasty snack! In short, electron transfer can occur between different molecules because some molecules have extra or missing electrons. In order to fill in those missing pieces or to complete those empty slots, molecules need help from each other. This need for help is what leads to electron transfer. The two types of electron transfers include reduction and oxidation reactions

. Reduction occurs when atoms gain additional electrons; oxidation occurs when atoms lose additional electrons . Electrons must be transferred from one molecule (don’t worry—it doesn’t hurt!) over to another molecule so that both ends balance out with enough electrons to fill up all those empty spots and become stable again.

While both oxidation and reduction reactions involve changes in electrical charge (from positive or negative), only oxidation involves losing one or more oxygen atoms.


Electron transfer is one of those things that we all kind of know, but may not fully understand. If you’re interested in learning more about electron transfer, or have a specific question, post your comments and questions in our forum.

We’ll get an expert to answer any questions you may have! And if you liked what you read here, feel free to share it with others by clicking on one of the social media links below. Thanks for reading!

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