Potassium nitrate is transparent, colorless, or white, and may be crystalline or powdery solid. It is odorless with a sharp, cool, salty taste. It is slightly hygroscopic, that is, having a tendency to absorb moisture from the air.
The compound can also be obtained for use from natural sources. It occurs as a thin, whitish, glassy crust on rocks in sheltered areas, such as caves. In warm climates, potassium nitrate forms when bacteria decompose animal feces and other organic matter. The compound usually appears as a white powder on the surface of soil. These sources of potassium nitrate are of use on a small scale basis and have no commercial value.
The primary use of potassium nitrate is in explosives, blasting powders, gunpowder, fireworks, and matches. The compound is used as an oxidizing agent in such preparations. An oxidizing agent is a substance that provides oxygen for the combustion of some other material. For example, gunpowder, the oldest known explosive, is a mixture of potassium nitrate, charcoal (nearly pure carbon), and sulfur. When the mixture is ignited, the carbon and sulfur burn very rapidly to produce carbon dioxide (CO) and sulfur dioxide (SO2. At the same time, the potassium nitrate decomposes to produce a variety of products, one of which is nitric oxide (NO). The rapid formation of very hot gases is responsible for the shock wave produced in the explosion.
Some other uses of potassium nitrate include:
- As a meat preservative that helps meats retain their bright red color;
- As a flux for soldering;
- In fertilizers, especially for use with crops such as tomatoes, potatoes, tobacco, leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, and peaches;
- In the manufacture of glasses and ceramics;
- As an additive for tobacco products that helps the tobacco burn more cleanly and smoothly;
- As an oxidizing agent in rocket propulsion systems;
- As a diuretic, a substance that increases the flow of urine from the body; and
- As a raw material in the manufacture of other potassium compounds.
Ecofarm Africa Connections is the leading supplier of Potassium Nitrate in the Kenyan market and across the borders. Call us today on 0714 690 266 to place your order.