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Applications of hydrogen peroxide

Applications of hydrogen peroxide is related largely as a bleaching agent for materials such as feathers, hair, wood, bone, ivory, and skins where the action of chlorine or sulphur dioxide might harmfully affect the article; it has the especial advantage that, after its action, nothing more harmful than water remains; in order to accelerate the action of the hydrogen peroxide, a small quantity of a mild alkali such as magnesium oxide or ammonia is often added. Treatment with hydrogen peroxide has also been suggested as a method for the removal of the excess of chlorine or sulphur dioxide in compounds which have been bleached with these agents. On account of its marked disinfectant and antiseptic action, hydrogen peroxide in dilute aqueous solution is of value as a wash for open wounds and is also frequently applied as a preservative in milk.

The catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide by finely divided metals has been suggested as the basis of a photographic process. An ethereal solution of the peroxide is wiped over the negative when, after the evaporation of the ether, the residual hydrogen peroxide film undergoes rapid decomposition at the dark portions of the negative. If a gelatinised but unsensitised paper is then applied to the glass, the undecomposed hydrogen peroxide is partially absorbed by the gelatinised surface of the paper from the transparent portions of the negative and, when subsequently dipped in a suitable solution, e.g. an ammoniacal solution of manganese sulphate, a brown " positive " print appears on the paper.

The value of hydrogen peroxide as an oxidising agent for analytical and preparative purposes can easily be realised from the foregoing description of its properties and, indeed, was recognised early in its history.

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