22 January 2007

Deer skull soup with free radicals


Following the advice on this page, I soaked the deer skull from a week ago in hydrogen peroxide for several days. It is much cleaner now and the sulfurous smell it had is mostly gone.

The decomposition of hydrogen peroxide generates oxygen, which is what makes hydrogen peroxide an oxidant (and also useful as a rocket fuel component)

2H2O2 --> 2H2O + O2

According to Frost & Pearson1, the decomposition reaction is very slow in the absence of a catalyst. Various metals and even rough surfaces can apparently act as catalysts and speed up the above reaction. Furthermore, in the presence of certain catalysts the decomposition mechanism generates free radicals, such as HO. and HO2. that are very reactive. I suspect it is the free radicals, more so than the oxygen, that are responsible for the bleaching and disinfecting properties of hydrogen peroxide solutions.

Bon appétit!

1Frost & Pearson. 1961. Kinetics and Mechanism.


TAW said...

Interesting. I used to soak the bones I found in a solution of bleach and water, and it works fine in both disinfecting and bleaching.... but it does leave them smelling of bleach... which is why I don't like to touch them too much. I guess next time I'll try the H2O2.


Prolonged exposure to bleach will make bones brittle. That's how I sadly ruined a previous deer skull that had a bigger set of antlers. But I learned my lesson.

TAW said...

Yeah, I read that in the site. Mine are still fine though, a couple of years after I found them (part of a young deer skull and a young racoon skull I believe). It makes sense though... one time I found a freshly dead hermit crab (I admit- I took a shell thinking it was empty) and I had nothing to preserve it with so I put it in bleach (lol) and it was amazing how fast it was turned into goo! I knew bleach was strong but holy cow that was just amazing.

deniz said...

where did you keep the soaking skull? weren't the cats interested in it? :-)