This is why water forms hydrogen peroxide

We are immersed and surrounded by microscopic droplets of water . They can be due to coughing, sneezing bringing pollution and virus infection. As early as 2019, they discovered that droplets of water could form significant amounts of hydrogen peroxide . The same fragile acidic substance used to whiten hair or disinfect wounds. Now researchers have attested that the spontaneous formation of hydrogen peroxide comes into contact with solid surfaces. It can play an important role in seasonal flu.


When water splits into such small droplets it is no longer stable but changes behavior. It means that every single drop will have a much greater proportion of its external molecules compared to those in a glass. In the surface exposed to the outside, hydrogen peroxide is formed. Here is what was proven by Jianghan University chemist Bolei Chen, Stanford University chemist Richard Zare and colleagues.

The researchers used a dye that glows in the presence of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). This was also produced with droplets touching nine other solids including earth and finer dust floating in the air. Also, it appears that the amount of H2O2 increases with humidity. Where do the droplets then steal the extra oxygen atom from? To get an answer, the researchers treated the surface of the glass with 18O, a heavy oxygen isotope .

The droplets used the surface of the 18O glass to form hydrogen peroxide. Chen and the team could measure a flowing electric current from solid to liquid over time with the increasing glow of the dye. It was therefore confirmed that the exchange of electrons took place in a process called contact electrification . Hydroxyl radicals have been created.

Contact electrification provides a chemical basis to explain in part why there is seasonality in viral respiratory diseases.

Richard Zare, a chemist at Stanford University


The heat and increased summer humidity that bring small amounts of hydrogen peroxide are an additional obstacle for circulating pathogens. The cool, dry winter air, on the other hand, could represent a small advantage for the virus in its spread.

  • Water Can Spontaneously Form Hydrogen Peroxide, And We Finally Understand Why (


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