Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a very pale blue liquid which appears colorless in a dilute solution, slightly more viscous than water. It is a weak acid. It has strong oxidizing properties and is therefore a powerful bleaching agent that is mostly used for bleaching paper, but has also found use as a disinfectant, as an oxidizer, as an antiseptic, and in rocketry (particularly in high concentrations as high-test peroxide or HTP) as a monopropellant, and in bipropellant systems. The oxidizing capacity of hydrogen peroxide is so strong that the chemical is considered a highly reactive oxygen species.
Hydrogen peroxide is naturally produced as a byproduct of oxygen metabolism, and virtually all organisms possess enzymes known as peroxidases, which harmlessly catalytically decompose low concentrations of hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygen (see Decomposition below).
For a long time it was believed that pure hydrogen peroxide was unstable, because attempts to separate the hydrogen peroxide from the water, which is present during synthesis, failed. This was because traces of solids and heavy metal ions led to a catalytic decomposition or explosions of the hydrogen peroxide. 100% pure hydrogen peroxide was first obtained through vacuum distillation by Richard Wolffenstein in 1894.
Other major industrial applications for hydrogen peroxide include the manufacture of sodium percarbonate and sodium perborate, used as mild bleaches in laundry detergents. It is used in the production of certain organic peroxides such as dibenzoyl peroxide, used in polymerisations and other chemical processes. Hydrogen peroxide is also used in the production of epoxides such as propylene oxide. Reaction with carboxylic acids produces a corresponding peroxy acid. Peracetic acid and meta-chloroperoxybenzoic acid (commonly abbreviated mCPBA) are prepared from acetic acid and meta-chlorobenzoic acid, respectively. The latter is commonly reacted with alkenes to give the corresponding epoxide.
In the PCB manufacturing process, hydrogen peroxide mixed with sulfuric acid was used as the microetch chemical for copper surface roughening preparation.
A combination of a powdered precious metal-based catalyst, hydrogen peroxide, methanol and water can produce superheated steam in one to two seconds, releasing only CO2 and high temperature steam for a variety of purposes..
Recently, there has been increased use of vaporized hydrogen peroxide in the validation and bio-decontamination of half suit and glove port isolators in pharmaceutical production.
Hydrogen peroxide should be stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area and away from any flammable or combustible substances. It should be stored in a container composed of non-reactive materials such as stainless steel or glass (other materials including some plastics and aluminium alloys may also be suitable). Because it breaks down quickly when exposed to light, it should be stored in an opaque container, and pharmaceutical formulations typically come in brown bottles that filter out light.
As a bipropellant H2O2 is decomposed to burn a fuel as an oxidizer. Specific impulses as high as 350 s (3.5 kN·s/kg) can be achieved, depending on the fuel. Peroxide used as an oxidizer gives a somewhat lower Isp than liquid oxygen, but is dense, storable, noncryogenic and can be more easily used to drive gas turbines to give high pressures. It can also be used for regenerative cooling of rocket engines. Peroxide was used very successfully as an oxidizer in World-War-II German rockets (e.g. T-Stoff for the Me-163), and for the low-cost British Black Knight and Black Arrow launchers.
In the 1940s and 1950s the Walter turbine used hydrogen peroxide for use in submarines while submerged; it was found to be too noisy and require too much maintenance compared to diesel-electric power systems. Some torpedoes used hydrogen peroxide as oxidizer or propellant, but this was dangerous and has been discontinued by most navies. Hydrogen peroxide leaks were blamed for the sinkings of HMS Sidon and the Russian submarine Kursk. It was discovered, for example, by the Japanese Navy in torpedo trials, that the concentration of H2O2 in right-angle bends in HTP pipework can often lead to explosions in submarines and torpedoes. SAAB Underwater Systems is manufacturing the Torpedo 2000. This torpedo, used by the Swedish navy, is powered by a piston engine propelled by HTP as an oxidizer and kerosene as a fuel in a bipropellant system.
While rarely used now as a monopropellant for large engines, small hydrogen peroxide attitude control thrusters are still in use on some satellites. They are easy to throttle, and safer to fuel and handle before launch than hydrazine thrusters. However, hydrazine is more often used in spacecraft because of its higher specific impulse and lower rate of decomposition.
Recently H2O2/propylene has been proposed as an approach to inexpensive Single Stage To Orbit: a fuel tank containing propylene has a bladder floating in it containing H2O2. This combination offers 15% superior Isp to O2/RP4 (a kerosene used as rocket propellant), does not need turbines or cryogenic storage or hardware, and greatly reduces the cost of the booster. The potential of this and other alternative systems is discussed in some detail at Dunn Engineering
Hydrogen peroxide has been used as an antiseptic and anti-bacterial agent for many years due to its oxidizing effect. While its use has decreased in recent years with the popularity of better-smelling and more readily-available over the counter products, it is still used by many hospitals, doctors and dentists in sterilizing, cleaning and treating everything from floors to root canal procedures.
While the anti conformer would minimize steric repulsions, a 90° torsion angle would optimize mixing between the filled p-type orbital of the oxygen (one of the lone pairs) and the LUMO of the vicinal O-H bond. Reflecting a compromise between the two interactions, gaseous and liquid hydrogen peroxide adopts an anticlinal "skewed" shape. This rotational conformation is a compromise between the anti conformer, which would minimize steric repulsion, and between the syn conformer that associates O-H bonds with lone pairs on the oxygen atoms. Despite the fact that the O-O bond is a single bond, the molecule has a remarkably high barrier to complete rotation of 29.45 kJ/mol (compared with 12.5 kJ/mol for the rotational barrier of ethane). The increased barrier is also attributed to repulsion between one lone pair and other lone pairs. The bond angles are affected by hydrogen bonding, which is relevant to the structural difference between gaseous and crystalline forms; indeed a wide range of values is seen in crystals containing molecular H2O2.
|Oxidant||Oxidation potential, V|
Hydrogen peroxide can decompose spontaneously into water and oxygen. It usually acts as an oxidizing agent, but there are many reactions where it acts as a reducing agent, releasing oxygen as a by-product.
It also readily forms both inorganic and organic peroxides.
This process is very favorable thermodynamically. It has a ΔH
o of −98.2 kJ·mol−1 and a ΔG o of −119.2 kJ·mol−1 and a ΔS of 70.5 J·mol−1·K−1. The rate of decomposition is dependent on the temperature and concentration of the peroxide, as well as the pH and the presence of impurities and stabilizers. Hydrogen peroxide is incompatible with many substances that catalyse its decomposition, including most of the transition metals and their compounds. Common catalysts include manganese dioxide, and silver. The same reaction is catalysed by the enzyme catalase, found in the liver, whose main function in the body is the removal of toxic byproducts of metabolism and the reduction of oxidative stress. The decomposition occurs more rapidly in alkali, so acid is often added as a stabilizer.
The liberation of oxygen and energy in the decomposition has dangerous side effects. Spilling high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide on a flammable substance can cause an immediate fire, which is further fueled by the oxygen released by the decomposing hydrogen peroxide. High-strength peroxide (also called high-test peroxide, or HTP) must be stored in a suitable, vented container to prevent the buildup of oxygen gas, which would otherwise lead to the eventual rupture of the container.
In the presence of certain catalysts, such as Fe2+ or Ti3+, the decomposition may take a different path, with free radicals such as HO· (hydroxyl) and HOO· being formed. A combination of H2O2 and Fe2+ is known as Fenton's reagent.
A common concentration for hydrogen peroxide is "20 volume", which means that when 1 volume of hydrogen peroxide is decomposed, it produces 20 volumes of oxygen. A 20 "volume" concentration of hydrogen peroxide is equivalent to 1.67 mol/dm3 (Molar solution) or about 6%.
Hydrogen peroxide available at drug stores is three percent solution. In such small concentrations, it is less stable, and decomposes faster. It is usually stabilized with acetanilide, a substance which has toxic side effects in significant amounts.
and sulfite (SO32−) is oxidized to sulfate (SO42−). However, potassium permanganate is reduced to Mn2+ by acidic H2O2. Under alkaline conditions, however, some of these reactions reverse; for example, Mn2+ is oxidized to Mn4+ (as MnO2).
Hydrogen peroxide is frequently used as an oxidizing agent in organic chemistry. One application is for the oxidation of thioethers to sulfoxides. For example, methyl phenyl sulfide was oxidised to methyl phenyl sulfoxide in 99% yield in methanol in 18 hours (or 20 minutes using a TiCl3 catalyst):
For example, on addition to an aqueous solution of chromic acid (CrO3) or acidic solutions of dichromate salts, it will form an unstable blue peroxide CrO(O2)2. In aqueous solution it rapidly decomposes to form oxygen gas and chromium salts.
H2O2 converts carboxylic acids (RCOOH) into peroxy acids (RCOOOH), which are themselves used as oxidizing agents. Hydrogen peroxide reacts with acetone to form acetone peroxide, and it interacts with ozone to form hydrogen trioxide, also known as trioxidane. Reaction with urea produces carbamide peroxide, used for whitening teeth. An acid-base adduct with triphenylphosphine oxide is a useful "carrier" for H2O2 in some reactions.
In this reaction, the hydroxy groups on the middle ring of anthracene are deprotonated and are turned into ketones, while two double bonds are lost from the middle ring and are replaced as C=O double bonds in the ketone groups. The anthraquinone derivative is then extracted out and reduced back to the dihydroxy compound using hydrogen gas in the presence of a metal catalyst. The overall equation for the process is deceptively simple:
Formerly inorganic processes were used, employing the electrolysis of an aqueous solution of sulfuric acid or acidic ammonium bisulfate (NH4HSO4), followed by hydrolysis of the peroxydisulfate ((SO4)2)2− which is formed.
In 1994, world production of H2O2 was around 1.9 million tonnes and grew to 2.2 million in 2006, most of which was at a concentration of 70% or less. In that year bulk 30% H2O2 sold for around US $0.54 per kg, equivalent to US $1.50 per kg (US $0.68 per lb) on a "100% basis".
Normal propellant grade concentrations therefore vary from 70 to 98%, with common grades of 70, 85, 90, and 98%. Many of these grades and variations are described in detail in the United States propellant specification number MIL-P-16005 Revision F, which is currently available. The available suppliers of high concentration propellant grade hydrogen peroxide are generally one of the large commercial companies which make other grades of hydrogen peroxide; including Solvay Interox, FMC and Degussa. Peroxide Propulsionis upgrading technical grade hydrogen peroxide to HTP. Other companies which have made propellant grade hydrogen peroxide in the recent past include Air Liquide and DuPont. DuPont recently sold its hydrogen peroxide manufacturing business to Degussa.
Propellant grade hydrogen peroxide is available to qualified buyers. Typically this chemical is only sold to commercial companies or government institutions which have the ability to properly handle and utilize the material. Non-professionals have purchased 70% or lower concentration hydrogen peroxide (the remaining 30% is water with traces of impurities and stabilizing materials, such as tin salts, phosphates, nitrates, and other chemical additives), and increased its concentration themselves. Many amateurs try distillation, but this is extremely dangerous with hydrogen peroxide; peroxide vapor can ignite or detonate depending on specific combinations of temperature and pressure. In general any boiling mass of high concentration hydrogen peroxide at ambient pressure will produce vapor phase hydrogen peroxide which can detonate. This hazard is mitigated, but not entirely eliminated with vacuum distillation. Other approaches for concentrating hydrogen peroxide are sparging and fractional crystallization.
High concentration hydrogen peroxide is readily available in 70, 90, and 98% concentrations in sizes of 1 gallon, 30 gallon, and bulk tanker truck volumes. Propellant grade hydrogen peroxide is being used on current military systems and is in numerous defense and aerospace research and development programs. Many privately funded rocket companies are using hydrogen peroxide, notably Blue Origin, and some amateur groups have expressed interest in manufacturing their own peroxide, for their use and for sale in small quantities to others.
A material safety data sheet will contain more information on the risks of working with this chemical.