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Potassium permanganate: Overview

Potassium permanganate is an inorganic chemical compound with chemical formula KMnO4, which is also known as Condy’s crystals. It is a purplish-black crystalline solid which dissolve in water to give a deep pink or purple solution. Due to its strong oxidizing property, it is commonly used in medical applications as a disinfectant. It is one of the most common chemicals used in the medical applications and listed as the safest and most effective medicines needed in the health system by the WHO (World Health Organization).

AppearanceOdorless, purple to magenta crystalline solid
Molar mass158.034g/mol
Density2.7 g/ml
Melting point240 oC
SolubilitySoluble in water, acetone, pyridine, methanol, acetic acid, and inorganic solvents

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Discovery of potassium permanganate

Johann Rudolf Glauber, a German-Dutch Chemist, discovered potassium permanganate in the year 1659. He was working on fusing mineral pyrolusite, he got a green solution when he dissolved the product of the reaction between pyrolusite and potassium carbonate in the water. He further noticed that the color of the solution turned red soon after. This was reported by Glauber, and marked the first mention of potassium permanganate in the history. Further experiments led to the identification of its chemical formula.

Nearly two hundred years later Glauber found potassium permanganate, a London-based chemist Henry Bollmann Condy discovered a solution with disinfection properties, with was produced by fusing pyrolusite with sodium hydroxide and dissolved the product into the water. With time, chemists found that the solution was more stable when potassium hydroxide was used instead of sodium hydroxide.

Uses of potassium permanganate

Potassium permanganate is a strong oxidizing agent and all the properties it possesses are due to its oxidizing nature. It is used in a wide range of industrial and medical applications, some of them are listed below.

Medical use

Medical uses of potassium permanganate include dermatitis, impetigo, pemphigus, tropical ulcers, and fungal infections of the foot. For patients suffering from these conditions, both adult and children, it can be applied as soaked dressing or a bath in the infected area. In case of open wounds and blisters, it is used as a wet dressing on the oozing pus and the other wounded area.

Potassium permanganate is never used in the concentrated form as an undiluted solution causes burns, it requires dilution of 1 part to 10 when using a 0.1% potassium permanganate solution. Depending on the condition, the doctor usually recommends the lighter or stronger dilutions.

Water treatment

Potassium permanganate, due to its strong oxidizing properties, is used in water treatment. It dissolves iron, manganese, and hydrogen sulfide into solid particles that can be filtered from water. It is also used in wells to control the growth of iron bacteria. Potassium permanganate is mostly used in the pre-treatment process; it doesn’t purify the water completely, but gets rid of the smell of sulfide and chlorine, remove color, and control taste.

In the water treatment process in a holding tank, potassium permanganate is generally pumped in at a concentration of 3.8 to 7.6 grams per gallon. This concentration helps to remove iron bacteria. The water in the tank is then agitated to make the whole process effective. It is left undisturbed to allow permanganate oxidation to take place, after which the water is filtered out by membrane filtration or granular activated carbon filtration. It is to be noted that potassium permanganate is always added before filtration process.

Fish disease

Potassium permanganate is used in the treatment of fish diseases, as it’s against a wide range of parasites that causes diseases in fish. Potassium permanganate also dissolves organic matter, thereby reducing the biological oxygen demand and improving the clarity and quantity of water in fish ponds.

Analytical chemistry

Potassium permanganate is widely used in analytical chemistry for qualitative analysis to determine the permanganate value. A standardized aqueous solution of potassium permanganate is used as an oxidizing titrant for redox titrations.

Other uses of potassium permanganate

  • It is known to be used in tanning leathers and printing fabrics
  • It is used as a bleaching agent, a pesticide, and as an antiseptic
  • It is used in fire services to control the burns of plastic sphere dispensers
  • It is used for fruit preservation, which delays the ripening process and increases the shelf-life up to four weeks without refrigeration.

Precautions when using potassium permanganate

Potassium permanganate, whether in crystal form or solution, is caustic and can burn the skin. Repeated use may cause the skin to burn. Hence, it is important to use gloves and other protective equipment (if needed) while handling it. If you are using crystals, ensure that it is completely dissolved in water before using them. If you notice any redness or irritation, visit the doctors for further medical assistance.

Potassium permanganate toxicity

Potassium permanganate solution is very powerful and has to be diluted before use. In case of contact with the concentrated solution, it causes damage to the skin, eyes, nose, and throat. In the event of direct contact with the skin, it is advised to consult the doctor immediately to prevent any further damage.

Ingestion of potassium permanganate can cause local as well as complete systemic damage. The local damage may include damage of the upper gastrointestinal tract, while the systemic toxic effects may lead to respiratory distress syndrome, coagulopathy, hepatic-renal failure, pancreatitis and even death in extreme cases.

Potassium permanganate: Global Market

Potassium permanganate is the most commonly used chemical in the industrial and pharmaceutical applications; hence, the market will see a significant growth in the next years. By the end of 2023, the growth of potassium permanganate is predicted to increase to CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 3.0%. The ever-growing demand for potassium permanganate is due to its applications in varied industries, especially medicine and wastewater treatment.

The potassium permanganate market is predominant in Asia Pacific, Africa, North America, Europe, Middle-east, and Latin America. These regions will dominate the global potassium permanganate market for the next few years. Due to the wide range of application it offers, the market will not see any slump any time soon.

Key players of the global potassium permanganate market:

  • Changyuan Chemical Corporation Limited
  • Carus Corporation
  • Groupstars Chemical (Yunnan) China L.L.C
  • Zunyi Shuangyuan Chemical Group Co., Ltd
  • Organic Industries Pvt Ltd, Libox Chem Pvt Ltd.
  • Guangdong Meixian Hanghai Manganese Chemical Plant
  • Universal Chemicals & Industries Pvt Ltd

Impact of COVID-19 on potassium permanganate market

The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has a huge impact on all the industries across the globe. Lockdown in many regions and the increasing economic crisis has hit the chemical industry hard. The fact cannot be neglected that the potassium permanganate market has also dropped due to the worldwide COVID-19 situation. But considering the wide applications it offers, the market is expected to increase soon.

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