Potassium is a chemical element that is silvery-white in appearance. It has the atomic number 19 and its atomic weight is 39.0983. It is placed in the 1st group and 4th period of the periodic table and has the electronic configuration of 1s22s22p63s23p64s1. As we can see from the electronic configuration of potassium, it has a valence electron in the 4s orbital. This imparts potassium an electropositive characteristic just like alkali metals. Electropositive metals or elements are the ones that have a high tendency to lose electron(s) and form ions. Potassium was discovered by the English chemist Sir Humphry Davy in 1807. Humphry isolated potassium by the electrolysis of caustic potash (KOH). This element is represented chemically by the symbol 'K'.
Interesting Fun Facts
- Potassium is a soft solid and can be cut with a knife!
- It does not occur in a free state in nature but it is an important part of many chemical compounds.
- Potassium chloride (KCl) is an alternative for people who are advised to decrease the intake of sodium chloride (salts in our diet).
- It reacts violently with water to form a colorless compound of potassium hydroxide solution and hydrogen gas. This reaction accompanies a lot of heat and potassium burns with a purple blue flame. Also, the hydrogen released in the process reacts with oxygen and ignition occurs. That's why, it is stored in hydrocarbons like petrol and kerosene.
- It's density is less than the density of water and it is insoluble in water.
- Its melting point is 63.38°C (336.53ºK) and boiling point is 758.8ºC (1031.95ºK).
- It is the second lightest metal after lithium.
- Around 2.4% of the Earth's crust is made up of this metal.
- Potash, a mineral source of commercial potassium, is mined in many places like Germany, California, Mexico, and Canada, to name a few. It is found in abundance in the Dead Sea.
Facts About Applications
- Potassium nitrate, a compound of potassium, nitrogen, and oxygen is used in fireworks, gunpowder, and explosives.
- Potassium hydroxide is used in making detergents and dish wash soaps.
- Potassium bromide, a white crystalline salt is used is used in medicinal products and photography.
- Potassium is used in horticulture and agriculture as a fertilizer.
It is an important constituent of all plants and elements and is vital for a balanced growth of the body. The element helps in the proper functioning of the cells. A balanced amount of this element is good for our health. Its extremely low concentration can lead to a condition of hypokalemia. Hypokalemia is a condition in which the person experiences severe muscle cramps, kidney failure, and intestinal paralysis. On the contrary, a high level of potassium in the body leads to hyperkalemia. Both these conditions affect the health adversely. If you like bananas, here is a good news for you―banana is one of the fruits that is rich in potassium and is very useful for people looking out for a diet rich in this element!
Nutritious fruits like nuts, tomatoes, potatoes, soy product, and meat are excellent sources of potassium. Foods high in this element are very beneficial for a healthy body. It is also required for normal fluid balance, protein, and nucleic acid synthesis.