Hydrogen peroxide, the most effective cleaning agent has become an indispensable part of every household. Let us find out who discovered this solvent and how it was discovered...
You walk into a beauty salon for a pedicure and the pedicurist applies some drops of a solution that resembles water on your nail. It is not water but it is hydrogen peroxide that helps in getting the dirt out of your nails.
Hydrogen peroxide, the most effective cleaning agent has become an indispensable part of every household. In fact, research has revealed that hydrogen peroxide also plays an important role in aging and cancer.
Let us find out who discovered this solvent and how it was discovered...
Biography ofLouis Jacques Thenard
Louis Jacques Thenard was born on May 4, 1777 in Paris, France. He belonged to a poor peasant family. His first original paper in the year 1799 was on the compounds of arsenic and antimony with oxygen and sulphur. In the year 1807, he began important research into ethers. His researches on sebacic acid in 1802 and on bile in 1807 were well received along with his discovery of hydrogen peroxide in 1818. In 1799, he developed the pigment known as Thenard's blue in response to a request by Jean-Antoine-Claude Chaptal for a cheap colouring matter.
In fact, Louis Jacques Thenard's name is one of the 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower in France.
How was hydrogen peroxide discovered?
Hydrogen peroxide is actually a clear liquid, slightly more viscous than water. In dilute solution, it appears colourless. Due to its oxidizing properties, hydrogen peroxide is often used as a bleach or cleaning agent in households and commercial set ups.
In the year 1818, hydrogen peroxide was first produced by Louis Jacques Thenard. He reacted barium peroxide with nitric acid and came up with an improved version of the process by using hydrochloric acid. This was followed by the addition of some sulphuric acid to precipitate the by-product barium sulfate that was produced.
Thenard's process was used from the end of the 19th century until the middle of the 20th century. Following this, hydrogen peroxide underwent many modifications.
It was believed that pure hydrogen peroxide was unstable. This was because of the failed attempts to separate the hydrogen peroxide from water which was present during the synthesis process. However, this instability was also due to the traces of impurities that catalyzed the decomposition of the hydrogen peroxide.
Finally, in the year 1894, one hundred percent pure hydrogen peroxide was first obtained through vacuum distillation by Richard Wolffenstein. At the end of the 19th century, Petre Melikishvili and his pupil L. Pizarjevski again showed that of the many proposed formulas of hydrogen peroxide, the correct one was H−O−O−H.
It was later found that the use of H2O2 sterilization in biological safety cabinets and barrier isolators was a popular alternative to ethylene oxide (EtO). It was a safer, more efficient decontamination method. Since then, H2O2 has been widely used in the pharmaceutical industry. In aerospace research, H2O2 is used to sterilize artificial satellites and space probes.
Till date, hydrogen peroxide is widely used and is found in every household in direct or indirect form.