Potassium control, namely Asiatic clams and zebra mussels.

Potassium permanganate is something we don’t hear about quite often, but it is a very useful chemical compound that we probably have encountered and used before. In this lesson, we will discuss the structure, formula, and uses of potassium permanganate.

Potassium Permanganate: Structure and Formula

Potassium permanganate is not as popular as other chemical compounds, but we probably encounter it more often than we think.

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Potassium permanganate, also known as permanganate of potash or Condy’s crystals, is a chemical compound consisting of two ions: a potassium ion and a permanganate ion.

The physical state of potassium permanganate is an odorless solid, and they look like dark purple or bronze-colored crystals. If we dissolve these crystals in water, the solution becomes purple in color.

Potassium permanganate is able to oxidize many substances, so it is very well known as a strong oxidizing agent, a substance that accepts or takes electrons from other substances.

Uses Of Potassium Permanganate

Potassium permanganate has various uses in various fields, such as water treatment, organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, and even in survival situations. In this section, we will discuss the various uses of potassium permanganate.

Water Treatment

Have you ever encountered water that did not smell or taste very good? Potassium permanganate is used in water treatment to remove odor-causing compounds and is also used to remove iron and manganese in water. Iron and manganese are two substances that commonly occur in water. We want these two substances removed, especially in our drinking water, because if they remain there, the water will have a metallic taste.

Iron and manganese also need to be removed because if water is exposed to oxygen, the presence of these two substances can cause water staining, so the water will not appear desirable to drink. The iron in water, when exposed to oxygen, will cause the water to appear orange-brown in color, while manganese will give water a black color.In some bodies of water, there are organisms whose population has grown rapidly and out of control, namely Asiatic clams and zebra mussels. Their numbers cause trouble, such as clogging water systems, damaging equipment, and affecting the water taste. Potassium permanganate helps to control these organisms by shortening their life spans.A lot of work goes into treating water so that it is free from pathogens that cause disease. While disinfecting water is essential, the disinfectants can react with naturally occurring materials in water and form disinfection byproducts (DBPs) that can cause health issues.

Again, potassium permanganate comes to the rescue. It disinfects water by attacking microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and algae and helps to control DBPs by reducing their formation.

Organic and Analytical Chemistry

In organic and analytical chemistry laboratories, potassium permanganate is a very valuable reagent. In organic chemistry, potassium permanganate is used to synthesize and react with different organic compounds. In analytical chemistry, potassium permanganate is used to find out the amount of material that can be oxidized in a chemical sample, and this amount is aptly referred to as the permanganate value. For example, it is used to find the Kappa number, or the estimate of how much chemicals need to be used to bleach wood pulp, the fibrous material when fibers of wood are separated and later made into paper, where whiteness is important.

Cleaning and Preserving Produce

There are times when we give in to the urge of buying a big bag of fruit.

The problem with this is, some of them may go bad before we get a chance to eat them. We want to increase the storage period of fruits, and to do this, we can pack the fruits in a plastic bag with potassium permanganate inside. This can double the fruit’s lifespan without refrigeration.Cleaning fruits and vegetables before eating them is a must. We would normally just wash them in water, but we can go an extra mile by adding a small pinch of potassium permanganate in water and soaking our fruits and vegetables in them, then rinsing them prior to eating. This will kill possible bacteria and parasites present that cannot be done just by washing them with water.

Survival Kits

If you love camping or hiking, then you may have encountered potassium permanganate.

It is a very helpful survival tool and may be able to help you when you are in a pinch. A small bottle of potassium permanganate can help you with purifying water or making an antiseptic solution if you are wounded. If you happen to forget your normal antifungal treatment, potassium permanganate can also be used as an alternative. If you need to start a fire, and you don’t have any matches, potassium permanganate can become a fire starter when you add either glycerin or antifreeze to it.

Lesson Summary

Potassium permanganate, also known as permanganate of potash or Condy’s crystals, is a chemical compound with a chemical formula of KMnO4, made of a potassium (K+) ion and a permanganate (MnO4-) ion. It is a strong oxidizing agent, so it readily takes or accepts electrons from other substances.

It normally appears in the form of solid purple crystals and can dissolve in water to form a purple solution.Potassium permanganate, while not as well known as other chemical compounds, has many uses. It is widely used for water treatment by disinfecting water and removing taste, color, and odor caused by iron and manganese that is present in water. It also helps control organisms in water, like Asiatic clams and zebra mussels, by shortening their life spans, and it helps to eliminate disinfection byproducts (DBPs).Potassium permanganate is a chemical that is present in organic and analytical chemistry laboratories. In organic chemistry laboratories, it reacts with and synthesizes various organic chemistry compounds.

In analytical chemistry, it tells you the permanganate value, which is the amount of material that can be oxidized in a sample. It also tells us the Kappa number, the amount of chemicals we need to bleach wood pulp. It is also helpful in preserving and cleaning fruits and vegetables and is also a multi-purpose must-have in a survival kit.

Key Terms

Potassium Permanganate Crystals

Potassium permanganate – a chemical compound consisting of two ions: a potassium ion and a permanganate ion; also known as permanganate of potash or Condy’s crystalsOxidizing agent – a substance that accepts or takes electrons from other substancesPermanganate value – the amount of material that can be oxidized by potassium permanganate in a chemical sampleKappa number – the estimate for the amount of chemicals needed to bleach wood pulp

Learning Outcomes

Now that you’ve finished the lesson, you should be able to:

  • Write the chemical formula for potassium permanganate
  • List the properties of potassium permanganate
  • Discuss the uses for potassium permanganate across various fields
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