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Potassium Permanganate & Sulfuric Acid

By A.L. Kennedy

Potassium permanganate and sulfuric acid, when combined, form manganese heptoxide. Although both potassium permanganate and sulfuric acid are widely used in industrial settings, manganese heptoxide has few known uses, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since potassium permanganate, sulfuric acid and manganese heptoxide can cause burns and other injuries, you should always wear appropriate safety gear and work with these chemicals only in a well-ventilated area. Always follow the instructions on the label.

Identification

Potassium permanganate is also known as permanganic acid, potassium salt and Condy's crystals, according to its Materials Safety Data Sheet. Its chemical formula is KMnO4. Sulfuric acid may also be called oil of vitriol or Babcock's acid and has a chemical formula of H2SO4, according to its Materials Safety Data Sheet. The result of combining these two chemicals is manganese heptoxide, commonly known as manganese (VII) oxide. Its chemical formula is Mn2O7.

Uses

Potassium permanganate is widely used in industrial plants to treat wastewater. It is also used in water treatment plants to remove unpleasant tastes and smells from water and to prevent the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. Although many treatment plants prefer potassium permanganate over chlorine because potassium permanganate does not have chlorine's strong smell, potassium permanganate is not a good disinfectant, according to the EPA. Sulfuric acid is used primarily to make fertilizer. It is also used to make dyes, paints, plastics and rubber. Manganese heptoxide is rarely used in manufacturing due to its extremely volatile nature, according to its Materials Safety Data Sheet.

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Potassium permanganate and sulfuric acid combine to form manganese heptoxide, a highly volatile compound. Although potassium permanganate is a white crystalline substance and sulfuric acid is a clear, thick liquid, the compound they produce, manganese heptoxide, is dark green with a purple vapor. Manganese heptoxide dries to form dark red crystals, which are as volatile as the liquid form, according to its Materials Safety Data Sheet.

Warning

Potassium permanganate, sulfuric acid and manganese heptoxide are all highly corrosive and will cause severe burns if they come in contact with your eyes, skin or mucous membranes, according to their Materials Safety Data Sheets. Any injuries may be permanent. In addition, long-term exposure to potassium permanganate may cause chronic and permanent damage to the central nervous system, while long-term exposure to sulfuric acid may cause cancer, according to their Materials Safety Data Sheets. Always wear safety goggles, a mask gloves and a lab coat or apron when handling these chemicals, and always work in a well-ventilated area that has safety and first-aid equipment available. If you come into contact with any of these compounds, call emergency services immediately.

Storage and Handling

Potassium permanganate should be stored in a cool, dry area away from sources of ignition and things that burn easily, such as wood, oil or paper, according to its MSDS. Any spills should be cleaned up with a wet sweeper to avoid releasing dust into the air. Similarly, sulfuric acid should be stored in a cool, dry area out of direct sunlight. Manganese heptoxide is extremely volatile and may explode on contact with air. If you spill manganese heptoxide, use a vacuum to clean it up. Do not use water, as manganese heptoxide will explode on contact with water, according to its MSDS.

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