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Precursor to other peroxide compounds


Hydrogen peroxide has several structural analogues with Hm−X−X−Hn bonding arrangements (water also shown for comparison). It has the highest (theoretical) boiling point of this series (X = O, N, S). Its melting point is also fairly high, being comparable to that of hydrazine and water, with only hydroxylamine crystallising significantly more readily, indicative of particularly strong hydrogen bonding. Diphosphane and hydrogen disulfide exhibit only weak hydrogen bonding and have little chemical similarity to hydrogen peroxide. All of these analogues are thermodynamically unstable. Structurally, the analogues all adopt similar skewed structures, due to repulsion between adjacent lone pairs.

Discovery

Alexander von Humboldt synthesized one of the first synthetic peroxides, barium peroxide, in 1799 as a by-product of his attempts to decompose air.

Nineteen years later Louis Jacques Thénard recognized that this compound could be used for the preparation of a previously unknown compound, which he described as eau oxygénée (French: oxygenated water) – subsequently known as hydrogen peroxide.[13][14][15] (Today this term refers instead to water containing dissolved oxygen (O2).)

An improved version of Thénard’s process used hydrochloric acid, followed by addition of sulfuric acid to precipitate the barium sulfate byproduct. This process was used from the end of the 19th century until the middle of the 20th century.[

Thénard and Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac synthesized sodium peroxide in 1811. The bleaching effect of peroxides and their salts on natural dyes became known around that time, but early attempts of industrial production of peroxides failed, and the first plant producing hydrogen peroxide was built in 1873 in Berlin. The discovery of the synthesis of hydrogen peroxide by electrolysis with sulfuric acid introduced the more efficient electrochemical method. It was first implemented into industry in 1908 in WeißensteinCarinthia, Austria. The anthraquinone process, which is still used, was developed during the 1930s by the German chemical manufacturer IG Farben in Ludwigshafen. The increased demand and improvements in the synthesis methods resulted in the rise of the annual production of hydrogen peroxide from 35,000 tonnes in 1950, to over 100,000 tonnes in 1960, to 300,000 tonnes by 1970; by 1998 it reached 2.7 million tonnes.[

Pure hydrogen peroxide was long believed to be unstable, as early attempts to separate it from the water, which is present during synthesis, all failed. This instability was due to traces of impurities (transition-metal salts), which catalyze the decomposition of the hydrogen peroxide. Pure hydrogen peroxide was first obtained in 1894—almost 80 years after its discovery—by Richard Wolffenstein, who produced it by vacuum distillation.[

Determination of the molecular structure of hydrogen peroxide proved to be very difficult. In 1892 the Italian physical chemist Giacomo Carrara (1864–1925) determined its molecular mass by freezing-point depression, which confirmed that its molecular formula is H2O2.[19] At least half a dozen hypothetical molecular structures seemed to be consistent with the available evidence.[ In 1934, the English mathematical physicist William Penney and the Scottish physicist Gordon Sutherland proposed a molecular structure for hydrogen peroxide that was very similar to the presently accepted one.