Permanganate Volcano

Dark crystals burn with steam and purple fire.

Scientific name: Glycerol is oxidized by potassium permanganate with evolution of great amount of heat.


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Wear eye protection goggles and gloves.

Always follow general safety recommendations. Please note that conducting chemistry experiments you must comply with the relevant legal procedures in your country.

Reaction formula

14KMnO4 + 4C3H5(OH)3 → 7Mn2O3 + 7K2CO3 + 5CO2 + 16H2O

Step-by-step instruction

WARNING! This experiment is dangerous! You should NOT perform this at home. ONLY carry out this experiment, if you are a trained chemist, and you understand local safety and legal requirements, which are required to perform such experiments

  1. Place about 2-3 mg of potassium permanganate on a heat-proof mat.
  2. Make a small dimple in the center of the pile.
  3. Pour a few drops of glycerol in the dimple of the pile. Use a pipette.
  4. Wait about 20 seconds.
  5. The mixture begins producing steam, glycerol burns with a purple flame.

Scientific background

The considered reaction is oxidation of glycerol (C3H5(OH)3) by potassium permanganate (KMnO4). When the components come into contact the process starts:

14KMnO4 + 4C3H5(OH)3 → 7Mn2O3 + 7K2CO3 + 5CO2 + 16H2O

Glycerol is oxidized to water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2). The process is highly exothermic and is followed by a great evolution of heat. The released heat is enough to evaporate water. The presence of manganese in oxidation state 7 makes the fire purple.


Published on 25 February 2015

  • Fire
  • Heating with fire
  • Explosion
  • Poisoned gas
  • Organic
  • Electricity
  • Solution
  • Oxidation reduction
  • Color change
  • Precipitate
  • Gassing
  • Catalyst