What is Potassium Used For?

Potassium and its compounds have some unique properties that make it useful for many practical purposes. Read this write-up to know more about the uses of this element.
Bidisha Mukherjee Apr 17, 2019
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Potassium (K) is a metallic element that belongs to the group of alkali metals in the periodic table. It is a soft substance with a silvery white color. Chemically, it is a highly reactive element and readily undergoes oxidation, changes into gray color when reacts with air. It reacts vigorously with water to form hydrogen gas which is highly exothermic.

Uses of Potassium and its Compounds

Potassium cannot be kept in free elemental state due to its high reactivity. Hence, we find that the compounds of this element are being used more commonly. Let us look at some of the uses of Potassium and its compounds.
This element in its vapor state is used in to measure the direction and strength of a magnetic field. It is used in the making of an alloy with sodium called NaK (or "nack"). At room temperature, this alloy is found in the liquid form and is used for heat transfer. It is a good drying agent and helps in the production of moisture-free and air-free solvents.
Potassium chloride is widely used in making fertilizers. It acts as a raw material in the preparation of potassium metal. It has medicinal values and is used for the treatment of hypokalemia. It can be used as an alternative for table salt by patients of hypertension.
Potassium permanganate has strong oxidizing properties. Therefore, it is used for removal of iron from water. It is a good disinfectant and is used for the treatment of various fungal infections of the hands and feet. It acts as a reagent in the synthesis process of organic compounds like ascorbic acid, saccharine, etc.
Potassium hydroxide is often used for the purpose of controlling pH value of acidic substances in several industries. This compound reacts with fats and oils to give soap. It has been used for the preparation of various potassium salts.
When Potassium reacts with elements of the halogen group, it leads to the formation of halides like potassium chloride. These ionic salts when used in photographic emulsion help in making of the photosensitive compound, i.e., silver halides.

Potassium nitrate is commonly known as saltpeter. It is used as a fertilizer. It is also present in gunpowder.
Potassium cyanide dissolves metals like gold, silver, and copper. Hence, it is used in gold mining or during the electroplating process of these metals.

Potassium chromate is used in making of inks, dyes, matches, fireworks, and also for tanning of leather.
The common name of potassium carbonate is potash, which is useful in the production of glass and soap.
Potassium chlorate is used in agriculture as a weedkiller. It is also used in safety matches.

Silvering of mirrors are done with the help of sodium tartrate, also called Rochelle salt.
Potassium nitrate is used in glass industries. It makes glass tougher than normal. Thus, Potassium element has numerous uses. Reaction of elemental potassium and water is exothermic and it can ignite the hydrogen gas produced during the reaction.
Also, a fire caused due to this element cannot be extinguished with the help of water but by some dry chemicals. Hence, it is very essential to handle this element with great care.
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