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Letter from Linus Pauling to T.K. Sherwood. November 14, 1940.
Pauling writes to discuss recent research on concentrated hydrogen peroxide.


November 14, 1940

Dr. T.K. Sherwood

National Defense Research Committee

1539 P Street NW

Washington, D.C.

Dear Dr. Sherwood:

I wish to thank you for your letter of November 6, containing specifications prepared by Dr. Bergstrom for the apparatus which we are developing. I think that we shall have one of the instruments read to be sent to you before very long.

I am enclosing in duplicate a report on concentrated hydrogen peroxide, and I shall be glad to learn whether you would like further work done on this matter. Dr. Paul A. Giguere, who has been working in our laboratories for a year and a half, has had extensive experience with concentrated hydrogen peroxide. He has prepared 99% H202 in liter quantities here, and it is his opinion that the substance is not dangerous under ordinary conditions of handling. It is my feeling that 90% peroxide is to be preferred to the 99% solution because the latter explodes below its boiling point, whereas the former does not. I am planning to carry out during the next few days some experiments on the resistance of concentrated peroxide to shock by detonators and by rifle bullets, and I shall let you know the results of the experiments.

In addition to this investigation, I would suggest that a study of the rate of evolution of oxygen might be made, and a search made for a procedure for causing the evolution of oxygen to occur at a rate which remains constant as the reaction continues and which is independent of temperature and of mechanical influences such as shaking. A study would


also have to be made of the problem of getting the gas out and leaving the liquid behind. Some method might also be found for diminishing the first hazard resulting from the possibility of contact of concentrated peroxide with combustible materials.

I would be glad if you would let me know soon if there is a chance that further work on concentrated hydrogen peroxide would be done. Dr. Giguere is at present Provincial Government of Quebec Fellow. He is a Canadian born citizen of Canada trained at Laval University and at McGill University. He came here in the spring of 1939 for the sake of his health. His fellowship expires at the end of December 1940, and he is planning to take a job with some industrial firm unless some other arrangement can be made for him. If there were some prospect that research on hydrogen peroxide would be carried out here, I could arrange for the California Institute of Technology to provide a stipend for him for an interim period, beginning in January.

In this connection you may be interested to know that Dr. W. Ewart Williams, formerly of the University of London, discovered last spring while working in our laboratories that lucite sheets under the influence of 99% hydrogen peroxide become plastic and can be formed into curved shapes. Dr. Williams can be reached in care of George Wells, President, American Optical Company, , Southbridge, Massachusetts. Dr. Giguere assisted him in the work for a while, and was subsided by a salary payment from the California Institute for one month.

I do not think that there is much chance that L102 can be made, since previous investigators have not succeeded in L1203. There is, however, the possibility that oxygen under sufficiently high pressure would combine with L1 to give L102. It might be worth while to try this.

Sincerely yours,

Linus Pauling

LP: jr

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