I've been working on a project involving the catalyst iron(III) oxide for decomposing hydrogen peroxide. It barely seemed to produce any oxygen.

This YouTube video also seems to suggest that iron(III) oxide isn't a very effective catalyst. But why?


Ah but iron(III) does act as a catalyst in peroxide decomposition (YouTube video).

It can be improved by the addition of some copper.

Some hydrogen peroxide is mixed with inhibitors (radical scavengers or chelating agents) to suppress the decomposition.

  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps the iron oxide is a solid and so the catalysis involves the reduction to iron(II) then re-oxidation to iron(III). This would probably be more effective if the iron were dissolved. $\endgroup$ – Owen Jan 7 '19 at 10:04

Because Fe(III) is already the highest oxidation state for iron. Although Fe(IV) is known, it’s only stable in unusual conditions,

Hydrogen peroxide is an oxidiser, and by decomposing it gives away oxygen. It can’t oxidise something that’s already oxidised. Fe(II) or Fe(0) might be a better option. Note that metallic iron powder might ignite in some cases, when exposed to a strong oxidiser like hydrogen peroxide.


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