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Reagents, such as sulfur (pictured), are the starting materials that are used in chemical reactions.

A reagent /riˈənt/ is a substance or compound added to a system to cause a chemical reaction, or added to see if a reaction occurs.[1] The terms reactant and reagent are often used interchangeably—however, a reactant is more specifically a substance consumed in the course of a chemical reaction.[1] Solvents, though involved in the reaction, are usually not called reactants. Similarly, catalysts are not consumed by the reaction, so are not reactants.

In organic chemistry, reagents are compounds or mixtures—usually composed of inorganic or small organic molecules—that cause a transformation on an organic substrate. Examples of organic reagents include the Collins reagent, Fenton's reagent, and Grignard reagent. Analytical reagents confirm the presence of another substance. Examples of these are Fehling's reagent, Millon's reagent, and Tollens' reagent.

When purchasing or preparing chemicals, reagent-grade describes chemical substances of sufficient purity for use in chemical analysis, chemical reactions or physical testing. Purity standards for reagents are set by organizations such as ASTM International or the American Chemical Society. For instance, reagent-quality water must have very low levels of impurities such as sodium and chloride ions, silica, and bacteria, as well as a very high electrical resistivity.

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  1. ^ a b IUPAC, Compendium of Chemical Terminology, 2nd ed. (the "Gold Book") (1997). Online corrected version:  (1996) "Reactant".