What is Potassium Permanganate? - Structure, Uses & Formula

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Nissa Garcia

Nissa has a masters degree in chemistry and has taught high school science and college level chemistry.

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Maria Airth

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Potassium permanganate is something we don't hear about quite often, but it is a very useful chemical compound that we probably have encountered and used before. In this lesson, we will discuss the structure, formula, and uses of potassium permanganate. Updated: 06/16/2020

Potassium Permanganate: Structure and Formula

Potassium permanganate is not as popular as other chemical compounds, but we probably encounter it more often than we think. Potassium permanganate, also known as permanganate of potash or Condy's crystals, is a chemical compound consisting of two ions: a potassium ion and a permanganate ion.

The physical state of potassium permanganate is an odorless solid, and they look like dark purple or bronze-colored crystals. If we dissolve these crystals in water, the solution becomes purple in color. Potassium permanganate is able to oxidize many substances, so it is very well known as a strong oxidizing agent, a substance that accepts or takes electrons from other substances.

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Uses Of Potassium Permanganate

Potassium permanganate has various uses in various fields, such as water treatment, organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, and even in survival situations. In this section, we will discuss the various uses of potassium permanganate.

Water Treatment

Have you ever encountered water that did not smell or taste very good? Potassium permanganate is used in water treatment to remove odor-causing compounds and is also used to remove iron and manganese in water. Iron and manganese are two substances that commonly occur in water. We want these two substances removed, especially in our drinking water, because if they remain there, the water will have a metallic taste.

Iron and manganese also need to be removed because if water is exposed to oxygen, the presence of these two substances can cause water staining, so the water will not appear desirable to drink. The iron in water, when exposed to oxygen, will cause the water to appear orange-brown in color, while manganese will give water a black color.

In some bodies of water, there are organisms whose population has grown rapidly and out of control, namely Asiatic clams and zebra mussels. Their numbers cause trouble, such as clogging water systems, damaging equipment, and affecting the water taste. Potassium permanganate helps to control these organisms by shortening their life spans.

A lot of work goes into treating water so that it is free from pathogens that cause disease. While disinfecting water is essential, the disinfectants can react with naturally occurring materials in water and form disinfection byproducts (DBPs) that can cause health issues. Again, potassium permanganate comes to the rescue. It disinfects water by attacking microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and algae and helps to control DBPs by reducing their formation.

Organic and Analytical Chemistry

In organic and analytical chemistry laboratories, potassium permanganate is a very valuable reagent. In organic chemistry, potassium permanganate is used to synthesize and react with different organic compounds. In analytical chemistry, potassium permanganate is used to find out the amount of material that can be oxidized in a chemical sample, and this amount is aptly referred to as the permanganate value. For example, it is used to find the Kappa number, or the estimate of how much chemicals need to be used to bleach wood pulp, the fibrous material when fibers of wood are separated and later made into paper, where whiteness is important.

Cleaning and Preserving Produce

There are times when we give in to the urge of buying a big bag of fruit. The problem with this is, some of them may go bad before we get a chance to eat them. We want to increase the storage period of fruits, and to do this, we can pack the fruits in a plastic bag with potassium permanganate inside. This can double the fruit's lifespan without refrigeration.

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Additional Activities

Television Home Shopping Ad

In this activity, you will create an advertisement in the fashion of shopping networks on television. The goal of your ad will be to sell potassium permanganate to the audience.


  • 3D structure/model of potassium permanganate (to be made as part of the exercise)
  • Visual aids to assist in promoting the benefits of Potassium permanganate
  • Device for recording (if desired)


  • You will need to:
    • Write a script for your advertisement (try for 2-3 minutes)
    • Build a 3D model of potassium permanganate (see the lesson for an image of the structure).
    • Create visual aids to help promote the product

The Script

  • Write a script to promote the benefits of potassium permanganate. Include:
    • Water treatment
    • Cleaning and preserving produce
    • Survival kits
    • Any other benefits
  • Remember to address the audience as you explain the structure and multiple uses of potassium permanganate.

The Model

  • Use the image of the structure and description given in the lesson to create a 3D model of potassium permanganate. Use any items available to create the model. You might want to use:
    • Wooden skewers
    • Modeling clay
    • Art pompoms and other art supplies
    • Tape
  • You will need to be able to explain the parts of the model during your television ad.

The Visual Aids

  • Use poster board or paper to create clear visual aids to promote the benefits of potassium permanganate.
  • You will refer to these visual aids during your television ad.

The Ad

  • If desired, video yourself performing the advertisement.
  • Show the ad to family, friends and/or classmates.
  • Ask them:
    • Would you buy this if it were a real product?
    • What do you think potassium permanganate is?
    • What can it do?


  • Write a brief essay discussing your process. Answer:
    • Is potassium permanganate a useful substance?
    • Did it help you to understand the substance better as you attempted to highlight its benefits for an advertisement?

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