Chemistry - What is the reaction between oxalic acid and potassium permanganate?

Solution 1:

We had a titration of oxalic acid vs. potassium permanganate for an experiment in which we used concentrated $\ce{H2SO4}$.

Actually, the reaction requires an acidic medium i.e. $\ce{H+}$ is involved as a reactant... I suppose the $\ce{H+}$ released by the oxalic acid would be enough since you are studying the rate of the reaction though I am not sure.

The balanced ionic equation is: $\ce{2MnO4- + 5H2C2O4 + 6H+ -> 2 Mn^2+ + 10CO2 + 8H2O}$

As you can see, $\ce{H+}$ is involved as a reactant and that is why you might have read that conc.$\ce{H2SO4}$ is necessary.

Solution 2:

Oxalic acid is a relatively strong acid for a carboxylic acid, and according to my sources below, can auto-catalyze the reaction with Potassium Permanganate. So, the reaction you performed was likely just the same mechanism that you have seen everywhere else. My source is as follows:

Kovacs K.A.; Grof P.; Burai L.; Riedel M. (2004). "Revising the mechanism of the permanganate/oxalate reaction". J. Phys. Chem. A. 108 (50): 11026–11031.