Hydrogen peroxide

January 26, 2007
Image of Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide, found in medicine cabinets around the world, is a powerful oxidizing agent. On human skin, an enzyme unlocks the oxidizing potential allowing it to kill germs. Concentrated hydrogen peroxide is used as a reactant in glow sticks, color safe bleach, and even rocket fuels.

MOTW update: August 15, 2022

Hydrogen peroxide1 (H2O2) is a powerful oxidizing agent with many industrial applications; and it has familiar uses such as an antiseptic for wounds and a reactant in glow sticks. This month, two articles appeared pertaining to the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) for synthesizing H2O2.

In the first, Curtis P. Berlinguette and several co-workers at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver) and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (Toronto) reported a method for directly hydrogenating molecular oxygen without the need for hydrogen gas. They designed a reactor in which hydrogen atoms are electrolytically generated from water in one chamber and then migrate through a palladium foil to a second chamber where they react with incoming oxygen. This process is significantly more efficient than existing indirect hydrogen–oxygen reactor systems.

The second finding was reported by an international team of scientists2, who used density functional theory calculations and experimentation to determine structure–function relationships in the single-atom catalysis of ORRs by cobalt–N4 (CoN4) complexes, in which N4 represents four-nitrogen molecules, chiefly tetrapyrrole and tetrapyridine structures. The authors confirmed that pyrrole-type CoN4 complexes are mainly responsible for the two-electron reduction that produces H2O2, whereas pyridine-type complexes catalyze the four-electron ORR that yields water.

1. CAS Reg. No. 7722-84-1.
2. Mingshan Zhu at Jinan University (Guangzhou, China), Emiliano Cortés at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (Germany), Min Liu at Central South University (Changsha, China), and colleagues at these institutions and Hunan University (Changsha) and the National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center (Hsinchu, Taiwan).

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