Louis-Jacques Thenard (1777-1857)

New Results on the Combination of Oxygen with Water

Annals of Philosophy 14, 209-210 (1819) from Annales de Chimie et de Physique 10, 335 (1819)

I have at last succeeded in saturating water with oxygen. The quantity which it then contains is 850 times its volume, or twice as much as the quantity that belongs to it. In that state of saturation, it possesses properties quite peculiar, the most remarkable of which are the following:

Its specific gravity is 1.453. Hence when it is poured into common water, we see it fall down through that liquid like a sort of syrup, though it is very soluble in it. It attacks the epidermis almost instantly, and produces a prickling pain, the duration of which varies according to the quantity of liquid applied to the skin. If this quantity be too great, or if the liquid be renewed, the skin itself is attacked and destroyed. When applied to the tongue, it whitens it likewise, thickens the saliva, and produces on the organs of taste a sensation difficult to express; but which approaches to that of tartar emetic. Its action on oxide of silver is exceedingly violent. Every drop of the liquid let fall on the dry oxide produces a real explosion; and so much heat is evolved, that if the experiment be made in a dark place, there is a very sensible disengagement of light. Besides the oxide of silver, there are several other oxides, which act with violence on oxygenated water; for example, the peroxide of manganese, that of cobalt, the oxides of lead, platinum, palladium, gold, iridium, &c. Several metals in a state of extreme division occasion the same phenomenon. I shall mention only silver, platinum, gold, osmium, iridium, rhodium, palladium. In all the preceding cases, it is always the oxygen united to the water which is disengaged, and sometimes likewise that of the oxide; but in others a part of the oxygen unites with the metal itself. This is the case when arsenic, molybdenum, tungsten, or selenium is employed. These metals are often acidified even with the production of light.

I have had repeated opportunities of observing that the acids render the oxygenated water more stable. Gold in a state of extreme division acts with great force with pure oxygenated water; yet it has no action on that liquid if it be mixed with a little sulphuric acid.


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