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History Of Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen Peroxide was first identified and isolated by the scientist Louis Jacques Thenard in 1818. He achieved this when he was burning barium salts to make barium peroxide. He noticed that when he put the barium peroxide in water to dissolve, hydrogen peroxide was produced. He improved on this method over the years and his was the most common way of producing hydrogen peroxide until the mid twentieth century.
"It was believed for many years that hydrogen peroxide was an unstable molecule as all attempts to separate it from water failed." It wasn't until 1894 that 100% hydrogen peroxide was extracted from water by the scientist Richard Wolffenstein, using a process called vacuum distillation.
By the end of the nineteenth century many formulas had been proposed for hydrogen peroxide. However its correct formula of HOOH (H2O2) was first proved by Petre Melinkishvili.
In March 1888 the Journal of the American Medical Association contained a reference that in 1863 Messner proved the presence of hydrogen peroxide in rainwater. It has long been the earth's way of sterilising itself.
This application for using hydrogen peroxide to sterilise has a long history of use in industry. In particular within the pharmaceutical industry to sterilise petri dishes and within the aeronautical industry to sterilise satellites.
Pure hydrogen peroxide was developed as a rocket fuel, and is still used as such today despite a number of accidents. In 1934 three people were killed in Kummersdorf, Germany when a hydrogen peroxide rocket exploded. Despite this Germany still went on to use hydrogen peroxide in the V2 rocket towards the end of WWII. The Russian submarine, Kursk, famously sunk with all hands during exercises in August 2000. It is believed that hydrogen peroxide leaked from one of the hydrogen peroxide fuelled torpedoes causing the fatal explosion.
More recently hydrogen peroxide has been used in the suicide bomb attacks in London in July 2005, as well as causing the scare that led to the prohibition of liquids on all flights.
Despite some of these darker uses of hydrogen peroxide it is its history as a medicine that has caused the most amount of interest in recent times.
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