What is/are Potassium Chloride?
The chemical compound potassium chloride (KCl) is a metal halide salt composed of potassium and chlorine. In its pure state, it is odorless and has a white or colorless vitreous crystal appearance, with a crystal structure that cleaves easily in three directions. Potassium chloride crystals are face-centered cubic. Potassium chloride was historically known as "muriate of potash". This name is occasionally still encountered in association with its use as a fertilizer. Potash varies in color from pink or red to white depending on the mining and recovery process used. White potash, sometimes referred to as soluble potash, is usually higher in analysis and is used primarily for making liquid starter fertilizers. KCl is used in medicine, scientific applications, and food processing. It occurs naturally as the mineral sylvite and in combination with sodium chloride as sylvinite.
The majority of the potassium chloride produced is used for making fertilizer, since the growth of many plants is limited by their potassium intake. As a chemical feedstock, it is used for the manufacture of potassium hydroxide and potassium metal. It is also used in medicine, lethal injections, scientific applications, food processing, and as a sodium-free substitute for table salt (sodium chloride).
It is sometimes used in water as a completion fluid in petroleum and natural gas operations, as well as being an alternative to sodium chloride in household water softener units. KCl is useful as a beta radiation source for calibration of radiation monitoring equipment, because natural potassium contains 0.0118% of the isotope 40K. One kilogram of KCl yields 16350 becquerels of radiation consisting of 89.28% beta and 10.72% gamma with 1.46083 MeV. Potassium chloride is used in some deicing products that are designed to be safer for pets and plants, though these are inferior in melting quality to calcium chloride (lowest usable temperature 12 °F (−11 °C) v. −25 °F (−32 °C)). It is also used in various brands of bottled water, as well as in bulk quantities for fossil fuel drilling purposes.
Potassium chloride was once used as a fire extinguishing agent, used in portable and wheeled fire extinguishers. Known as Super-K dry chemical, it was more effective than sodium bicarbonate-based dry chemicals and was compatible with protein foam. This agent fell out of favor with the introduction of potassium bicarbonate (Purple-K) dry chemical in the late 1960s, which was much less corrosive and more effective. It is rated for B and C fires.
Along with sodium chloride and lithium chloride, potassium chloride is used as a flux for the gas welding of aluminium.
Potassium chloride is also an optical crystal with a wide transmission range from 210 nm to 20 µm. While cheap, KCl crystal is hygroscopic. This limits its application to protected environments or short term uses such as prototyping. Exposed to free air, KCl optics will "rot". Whereas KCl components were formerly used for infrared optics, it has been entirely replaced by much tougher crystals like zinc selenide.
Potassium chloride has also been used to create heat packs which employ exothermic chemical reactions, but these are no longer being created due to cheaper and more efficient methods, such as the oxidation of metals ('Hot Hands', one time use products) or the crystallization of sodium acetate (multiple use products).
Potassium chloride is used as a scotophor with designation P10 in dark-trace CRTs, e.g. in the Skiatron.
- Confusion, anxiety, feeling like you might pass out;
- Uneven heartbeat;
- Extreme thirst, increased urination;
- Leg discomfort;
- Muscle weakness or limp feeling;
- Numbness or tingly feeling in your hands or feet, or around your mouth;
- Severe stomach pain, ongoing diarrhea or vomiting;
- Black, bloody, or tarry stools; or
- Coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds.
Less serious side effects of potassium chloride may include:
- Mild nausea or upset stomach;
- Mild or occasional diarrhea;
- Slight tingling in your hands or feet; or
- Appearance of a potassium chloride tablet in your stool.
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article potassium chloride, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.