The Oxidation State of Manganese in KMnO4

Manganese, an essential transition metal in the periodic table, has the remarkable ability to exhibit various oxidation states, depending on the chemical compound in which it is found. One of the most intriguing and well-known examples of manganese’s variable oxidation states is observed in potassium permanganate, commonly represented as KMnO4. This deep purple compound is a potent oxidizing agent, and its unique properties are closely tied to the oxidation state of manganese within the molecule. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of KMnO4, exploring its structure, properties, and the oxidation state of manganese, providing a comprehensive understanding of this iconic chemical compound.

what is the oxidation state of manganese in kmno4
Image on Freepik

Understanding Potassium Permanganate (KMnO4)

Potassium permanganate, often abbreviated as KMnO4, is a powerful and versatile chemical compound with diverse applications in chemistry, medicine, and industry. It is known for its striking purple color and strong oxidizing properties. KMnO4 is readily soluble in water, making it a convenient reagent for various chemical reactions. However, what sets KMnO4 apart from many other compounds is the central role played by manganese, which can exhibit a high oxidation state in this compound.

Manganese’s Variable Oxidation States

To comprehend the oxidation state of manganese in KMnO4, we must first grasp the concept of oxidation states. An oxidation state (also known as oxidation number) is a measure of the degree of oxidation of an atom in a chemical compound. It is a way to assign charges to atoms based on their electronegativity and the distribution of electrons in a compound.

Manganese is particularly fascinating in this context because it can exist in a range of oxidation states, which include +2, +3, +4, +6, and +7. These different oxidation states allow manganese to participate in a wide variety of chemical reactions and form numerous compounds. In the case of KMnO4, the oxidation state of manganese is +7.

The Structure of Potassium Permanganate (KMnO4)

Before we dive deeper into the oxidation state of manganese in KMnO4, it is essential to understand the molecular structure of the compound. KMnO4 is composed of potassium ions (K+) and permanganate ions (MnO4-). The permanganate ion, MnO4-, is a polyatomic ion consisting of one manganese atom bonded to four oxygen atoms.

The structure of the permanganate ion can be visualized as follows:

  • The manganese (Mn) atom is at the center, and it is bonded to each of the four oxygen (O) atoms.
  • Each oxygen atom is connected to the manganese atom through a single bond.
  • The manganese atom carries a charge of +7, while each oxygen atom bears a charge of -2. This distribution of charges is what defines the oxidation state of manganese in KMnO4.

Balancing the Charges in KMnO4

To ascertain the oxidation state of manganese in KMnO4, we can use a simple rule: the sum of the oxidation states in a compound should be equal to the net charge of the compound. In the case of KMnO4, the permanganate ion (MnO4-) is negatively charged, with a charge of -1.

Now, let’s break down the oxidation states for each element in the compound:

  1. The oxidation state of potassium (K) is +1. This is because potassium is an alkali metal, and in most compounds, it has an oxidation state of +1.
  2. The oxidation state of oxygen (O) is -2, as it is a highly electronegative element that typically gains two electrons in chemical reactions.

To balance the charges in KMnO4, we can set up the following equation:

(Charge of K) + 4 * (Charge of O) + (Charge of Mn) = (Net charge of the permanganate ion)

Plugging in the known values:

(+1) + 4 * (-2) + (Charge of Mn) = (-1)

Simplifying the equation:

+1 – 8 + (Charge of Mn) = -1

Charge of Mn = -1 + 8 – 1

Charge of Mn = +7

As we can see, the charge of manganese (Mn) in KMnO4 is indeed +7, which corresponds to its oxidation state. Therefore, in KMnO4, the oxidation state of manganese is +7.

The Significance of Manganese’s +7 Oxidation State

Manganese’s ability to exhibit an oxidation state of +7 in KMnO4 is of great importance in various chemical applications. The +7 oxidation state is one of the highest oxidation states that manganese can achieve, and this high oxidation state is crucial for the powerful oxidizing properties of KMnO4.

  1. Oxidizing Agent: KMnO4 is a strong oxidizing agent. It readily releases oxygen, which can react with other substances, causing them to undergo oxidation. This property makes it useful in many chemical reactions, such as the oxidation of organic compounds.
  2. Sterilization and Disinfection: Due to its strong oxidizing ability, KMnO4 is used in water treatment processes to remove impurities and as a disinfectant. It can eliminate harmful microorganisms and organic contaminants.
  3. Medical Applications: Potassium permanganate is sometimes used in medicine as an antiseptic for cleaning wounds. It can disinfect and help prevent infection in minor injuries.
  4. Analytical Chemistry: KMnO4 is employed as a titration reagent to determine the concentration of reducing agents in chemical analyses. Its reaction with reducing substances is based on the transfer of electrons, a process that relies on manganese’s high oxidation state.
  5. Colorimetry: The deep purple color of KMnO4 is used in colorimetric analyses to detect the presence of certain substances. When the permanganate ion is reduced in a chemical reaction, the color changes from purple to colorless, allowing for quantitative analysis.

Comparing Manganese’s Oxidation State in Other Compounds

While the +7 oxidation state of manganese in KMnO4 is intriguing, it is not the only oxidation state that manganese can adopt. Manganese is known to exhibit a range of oxidation states, each with its own set of properties and reactivity. Let’s briefly explore some of these oxidation states and the compounds in which they are found:

  1. Manganese(II) – Mn²⁺: In the +2 oxidation state, manganese forms compounds such as manganese(II) chloride (MnCl₂) and manganese(II) sulfate (MnSO₄). These compounds are often used in the preparation of other manganese compounds and as dietary supplements.
  2. Manganese(III) – Mn³⁺: Manganese(III) compounds, such as manganese(III) oxide (Mn₂O₃), have a +3 oxidation state. They are used as catalysts in various chemical reactions and are also involved in the oxidation of organic compounds.
  3. Manganese(IV) – Mn⁴⁺: Manganese(IV) is found in compounds like manganese(IV) oxide (MnO₂), which is used in dry cell batteries. Manganese dioxide serves as a reactant in the battery’s cathode and plays a role in the conversion of chemical energy into electrical energy.
  4. Manganese(VI) – Mn⁶⁺: Manganese(VI) compounds, like potassium manganate (K₂MnO₄), contain manganese with a +6 oxidation state. These compounds are important in redox reactions and are used as oxidizing agents in certain chemical processes.

The wide range of manganese oxidation states contributes to the element’s versatility and applicability in various chemical reactions and industries.

Historical Perspective on Potassium Permanganate

The history of potassium permanganate is intertwined with the discovery and understanding of its unique properties, particularly the high oxidation state of manganese. The compound’s history can be traced back to the late 18th century when chemists began to explore its properties.

  1. Discovery: In the late 18th century, Carl Wilhelm Scheele, a Swedish chemist, first isolated a substance that exhibited the properties of what we now recognize as potassium permanganate. However, it was Sir Humphry Davy, an English chemist, who later determined the compound’s composition in 1817. It was officially named potassium permanganate by Jöns Jakob Berzelius, a Swedish chemist, in 1810.
  2. Early Uses: In the 19th century, potassium permanganate found various applications in medicine, such as disinfecting wounds and treating skin conditions. Its strong oxidizing properties made it a valuable tool in these applications.
  3. Analytical Chemistry: Potassium permanganate gained popularity in analytical chemistry for its ability to accurately determine the concentration of reducing agents. This method is known as titration and is still widely used in laboratories today.
  4. Water Treatment: In the 20th century, potassium permanganate became a crucial component of water treatment processes. Its ability to remove impurities, disinfect water, and control odors led to its use in municipal water treatment facilities.

Applications of KMnO4 in Various Industries

Potassium permanganate, with its unique properties and manganese’s +7 oxidation state, finds applications across various industries. Its versatility makes it a valuable reagent in chemistry, medicine, and more.

  1. Chemical Industry: KMnO4 is used as a reagent for the synthesis of organic compounds, including the oxidation of alkenes and alkynes. It plays a vital role in the production of various chemicals, such as adhesives, dyes, and pharmaceuticals.
  2. Environmental Remediation: In environmental applications, potassium permanganate is used for soil and groundwater remediation. It can oxidize and break down organic contaminants, making it a valuable tool for cleaning up polluted sites.
  3. Mining Industry: In the mining industry, KMnO4 is employed in the extraction of precious metals, such as gold and silver. It assists in the dissolution of these metals from ores.
  4. Food and Beverage Industry: Potassium permanganate is used in the food and beverage industry for cleaning and disinfection purposes. It helps remove impurities and pathogens from water and equipment, ensuring the safety of food products.
  5. Textile Industry: KMnO4 plays a role in the textile industry, primarily in the bleaching of fabrics. It helps remove natural colorants and impurities from textiles, preparing them for dyeing or printing.

Safety Precautions and Handling

While potassium permanganate is a valuable chemical, it is essential to recognize that it can be hazardous if mishandled. The compound can cause skin and eye irritation, and inhalation of its dust should be avoided. Proper safety precautions, such as wearing gloves and protective eyewear, are necessary when working with KMnO4. Additionally, it should be stored away from flammable materials and other reactive substances.


Potassium permanganate (KMnO4) is a remarkable chemical compound with a deep purple color and potent oxidizing properties. Its distinctive characteristics are closely tied to the oxidation state of manganese within the molecule, which is +7. Manganese’s ability to exhibit such a high oxidation state makes KMnO4 a valuable reagent in various industries, including chemistry, medicine, and environmental remediation. Its historical significance, diverse applications, and contributions to analytical chemistry make it a fascinating compound to study. Understanding the oxidation state of manganese in KMnO4 is not only a key aspect of its chemistry but also essential for its safe and effective use in a wide range of practical applications.