Potassium Series: Part 5

By: Dr Ameya Tripathi, Associate Editor-ICN

Potassium trivia-Final Part

LUCKNOW: We have discussed in details various physiological and biological details of potassium. summoning up the series we would like to have a look on various interesting facts and trivia about potassium.

  • The name for potassium comes from the English word for potash. The symbol for potassium is K, which is derived from the Latin “kalium” and Arabic “qali” for alkali. Potash and alkali are two of the potassium compounds known to man since ancient times.
  • Potassium is formed in supernovae by nucleosynthesis from lighter atoms. Potassium is principally created in Type II supernovae via an explosive oxygen-burning process
  • In 1797, the German chemist Martin Klaproth discovered “potash” in the minerals leucite and lepidolite, and realized that “potash” was not a product of plant growth but actually contained a new element, which he proposed to call kali.
  • Potassium was first isolated from potash, the ashes of plants, from which its name derives
  • Potassium was the first metal that was isolated by electrolysis
  • Potassium was first purified in 1807 by Sir Humphry Davy from caustic potash (KOH)
  • Potassium in nature occurs only in ionic salts. Elemental potassium is a soft silvery-white alkali metal that oxidizes rapidly in air and reacts vigorously with water, generating sufficient heat to ignite hydrogen emitted in the reaction, and burning with a lilac-colored flame.
  • Potassium is the 20th most abundant element in the solar system and the 17th most abundant element by weight in the earth.
  • It makes up about 2.6% of the weight of the earth’s crust and is the seventh most abundant element in the crust.
  • Elemental potassium does not occur in nature because of its high reactivity.it reacts violently to water as well as oxygen.it is always found in combined forms and has to be isolated.
  • Potassium is the second lightest (least dense) metal after lithium.
  • Pure potassium is a lightweight silvery metal that is soft enough to cut with a knife. Although the metal appears silver when it’s fresh, it tarnishes so quickly that it normally appears dull gray.
  • Pure potassium usually is stored under oil or kerosene because it oxidizes so readily in air and reacts in water to evolve hydrogen, which may be ignited from the heat of the reaction.
  • The melting point of potassium is 63.4 oC or 336.5 K and its boiling point is 765.6 oC or 1038.7 K. This means potassium is a solid at room temperature.
  • One lesser-known use of potassium is as a portable oxygen source. Potassium superoxide (KO2), is an orange solid used to release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide in respiration system for submarines, spacecraft, and mines.
  • Its earliest use was in making soaps.
  • Potassium chloride (KCl) is an alternative for people who are advised to decrease the intake of sodium chloride (salts in our diet).
  • It’s density is less than the density of water and it is insoluble in water.
  • Potassium nitrate, a compound of potassium, nitrogen, and oxygen is used in fireworks, gunpowder, and explosives.
  • Potassium bromide, a white crystalline salt is used is used in medicinal products and photography.
  • Potassium is used as a heat transfer medium. Its salts are used as a fertilizer, oxidizer, colorant, to form strong bases, as a salt substitute, and for many other applications.
  • There are actually 24 known isotopes of potassium. The ordinary potassium that most people will consume has just 3 isotopes to it. One of those isotopes is known to have a radioactivity half-life that is literally millions of years.
  • Humans can taste potassium in aqueous solution. Dilute potassium solutions taste. Increasing the concentration leads to a bitter or alkaline flavor. Concentrated solutions taste salty.
  • Potassium can be detected by taste because it triggers three of the five types of taste sensations, according to concentration. Dilute solutions of potassium ions taste sweet, allowing moderate concentrations in milk and juices, while higher concentrations become increasingly bitter/alkaline, and finally also salty to the taste.
  • Potassium chloride is used in the United States for lethal injection executions.
  • potassium should not be stored under oil for longer than six months, unless in an inert (oxygen free) atmosphere, or under vacuum. After prolonged storage in air dangerous shock-sensitive peroxides can form on the metal and under the lid of the container, and can detonate upon opening.
  • Potassium ions are an essential component of plant nutrition and are found in most soil types.They are used as a fertilizer in agriculture, horticulture, and hydroponic culture in the form of chloride (KCl), sulfate (K2SO4, or nitrate (KNO3).

So here we see that all interesting trivia, bits of knowledge and interesting facts about potassium has been compiled. We have tried to bring everything we know about potassium under one series. Still if you have some more points about potassium to add .Please  free to share with me on my email id dramaytripathi@ramadentalclinic.com or amay_pd@yahoo.co.in . the article will be updated ASAP. thanks for your cooperation.

Dr Ameya Tripathi is celebrated dental surgeon, social worker, writer, dental implantologist working at Rama Dental Clinic & Implant center Mahanagar Lucknow and Gomti Nagar Lucknow as its director. His works can be visited at www.ramamdentalclinic.com