In 1799, Alexander von Humboldt synthesized barium peroxide, one of the first synthetic peroxides, as a by-product of his attempts to decompose air. After nineteen years, Louis Jacques Thénard stated that this compound could be used for the preparation of a previously unknown compound. He described it as eauoxygénée (French: oxygenated water) – which came to be known as hydrogen peroxide. An advanced version of Thénard's method used hydrochloric acid, followed by addition of sulfuric acid to precipitate the barium sulfate by-product. This method was followed from the end of the 19th century until the middle of the 20th century. In 1811, Thénard and Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac synthesized sodium peroxide. Pure hydrogen peroxide was initially believed to be unstable since early experiments to separate it from the water, which is present during synthesis,- all failed. This instability was present owing to traces of impurities (transition-metal salts). These impurities catalyze the decomposition of the hydrogen peroxide. Richard Wolfenstein first obtained pure hydrogen peroxide in 1894. He produced it by vacuum distillation.
The structure of hydrogen peroxide is non-planar which means that it has a three-dimensional quality. The structure for this compound is also popularly known as open book structure. The following diagram will explain the statement.
The properties of hydrogen peroxide are as follows:
When exposed to sunlight, hydrogen peroxide decomposes. This decomposition process is catalyzed by traces of alkali metals. Therefore, hydrogen peroxide can be stored in wax-lined glass or plastic containers and are kept in the dark. It must also be kept away from dust particles as dust can induce explosive decomposition of this compound.
Hydrogen peroxide has a number of uses. Some of them are listed below: