Potassium Permanganate known by its empirical formula KMnO4, is a salt where in Manganese is in the +7 oxidation state. The permanganate ion is a strong oxidizing agent. It dissolves in water to give deep purple solutions, evaporation of which gives prismatic purple-black glistening crystals. This salt, also known as “permanganate of potash” or “Condy’s Crystals”.
It forms orthorhombic crystals with constants: a = 9.105, b = 5.720, c = 7.425 Å. The Mn-O bond distances are 1.629 Å. The picture on the right show the tetrahedron of an KMnO4 molecule. Potassium permanganate is recognized by its characteristic purple to pink color when made into a solution. In high concentrations it is a dark purple color.
In 1659 a German chemist, J.R. Glauber, fused a mixture of the mineral pyrolusite and potassium carbonate to obtain a material that, when dissolved in water, gave a green solution (potassium manganate) which slowly shifted to violet potassium permanganate and then finally red. This report represents the first description of the production of potassium permanganate.Just under two hundred years later London chemist Henry Bollmann Condy had an interest in disinfectants, and marketed several products including ozonised water. He found that fusing pyrolusite with NaOH and dissolving it in water produced a solution with disinfectant properties. He patented this solution, and marketed it as Condy’s Fluid. Although effective, the solution was not very stable. This was overcome by using KOH rather than NaOH. This was more stable, and had the advantage of easy conversion to the equally effective potassium permanganate crystals. This crystalline material was known as Condy’s crystals or Condy’s powder. Potassium permanganate was comparatively easy to manufacture so Condy was subsequently forced to spend considerable time in litigation in order to stop competitors from marketing products similar to Condy’s Fluid or Condy’s Crystals.
Early photographers used it as a component of flash powder. It is now replaced with other oxidizers, due to the instability of permanganate mixtures. Aqueous solutions of KMnO4 have been used together with T-Stoff (i.e. 80% hydrogen peroxide) as propellant for the rocket plane Messerschmitt Me 163. In this application, it was known as Z-Stoff. This combination of propellants is sometimes still used in torpedoes.