Publication No. 12544
Teach oxidation–reduction reactions to your students with an amazing fire and smoke demonstration. By adding glycerin to potassium permanganate students will witness the oxidation of the glycerin by permanganate.
Oxidation–reduction reactions are a major class of chemical reactions. An oxidation-reduction, or redox, reaction is defined as any reaction in which electrons are transferred from one substance to another. Oxidation occurs when a substance loses electrons. Because any electrons lost by one reactant must be transferred to another reactant, oxidation and reduction always occurs together. Reduction occurs when a substance gains electrons.
Glycerin, 1 mL*
Potassium permanganate, 15 g*
Evaporating dish, porcelain
*Materials included in kit.
Potassium permanganate is a powerful oxidizing agent; may react violently with easily oxidized substances and can explode on sudden heating in a closed container. Some people are allergic to glycerin and may experience irritation to their skin and eyes. Contact with strong oxidants (chromium trioxide, potassium chlorate, potassium permanganate) may cause an explosion. The quantities used in this lab are considered to be a safe demonstration when all safety precautions are taken. Wear chemical splash goggles, chemical-resistant gloves and chemical-resistant apron. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before leaving the laboratory. Follow all laboratory safety guidelines. Please review current Safety Data Sheets for additional safety, handling and disposal information.
Please consult your current Flinn Scientific Catalog/Reference Manual for general guidelines and specific procedures, and review all federal, state and local regulations that may apply, before proceeding. Wash the lab table thoroughly with water to clean up any un-reacted potassium permanganate. All soluble solid products should be disposed of according to Flinn Suggested Disposal Method #26b. All insoluble products should be rinsed with water and then disposed of according to Flinn Suggested Disposal Method #26a.
Student Worksheet PDF
Correlation to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)†
Science & Engineering PracticesAnalyzing and interpreting data
Constructing explanations and designing solutions
Disciplinary Core IdeasMS-PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter
MS-PS1.B: Chemical Reactions
HS-PS1.B: Chemical Reactions
MS-PS1-2. Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred.
Answers to Questions
Special thanks to Jim and Julie Ealy, The Peddie School, Hightstown, NJ, who provided us with the instructions for this activity.