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The establishment of protective metal oxide lay-ers through the use of reducing agents (such as hydrazine, hydroquinone, and other oxygen scavengers) is known as metal passivation or metal conditioning. Although "metal passivation" refers to the direct reaction of the compound with the metal oxide and "metal conditioning" more broadly refers to the promotion of a protective surface, the two terms are frequently used interchangeably.

The reaction of hydrazine and hydroquinone, which leads to the passivation of iron-based metals, proceeds according to the following reactions:

N2H4 6Fe2O3 ® 4Fe3O4 2H2O  N2
hydrazine    hematite    magnetite    water    nitrogen


C6H4(OH)2 + 3Fe2O3 ® 2Fe3O4 + C6H4O2 + H2O
hydroquinone   hematite   magnetite   benzoquinone   water


Similar reactions occur with copper-based metals:

N2H4 + 4CuO ® 2Cu2O + 2H2O + N2
hydrazine   cupric oxide   cuprous oxide   water   nitrogen


C6H6O2 + 2CuO ® Cu2O + C6H4O2 + H2O
hydroquinone   cupric oxide   cuprous oxide   benzoquinone   water


Magnetite and cuprous oxide form protective films on the metal surface. Because these oxides are formed under reducing conditions, removal of the dissolved oxygen from boiler feedwater and condensate promotes their formation. The effective application of oxygen scavengers indirectly leads to passivated metal surfaces and less metal oxide transport to the boiler whether or not the scavenger reacts directly with the metal surface.

A significant reduction in feedwater oxygen and metal oxides can occur with proper application of oxygen scavengers.

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