Up until this point we have dealt with familiar intensive variables such as temperature, pressure, density, and molar thermodynamic properties (molar entropies, free energies, and so on). There exists another, equally important intensive variable that we have used implicitly, but have not yet discussed in sufficient detail—the oxidation state of a system. This involves concepts and applications so useful to Earth scientists that we devote a complete chapter to this single variable. Except for nuclear processes, most chemical behavior is determined by electron distributions and interactions. From this point of view, the oxidation state of an atom is among the most fundamental of all its properties. Most elements can exist in multiple valences with each state usually displaying quite different behavior from the others. As an example, consider the element sulfur.
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