POTASSIUM [symbol K (from kalium), atomic weight 39-114 O=i6)], a metallic chemical element, belonging to the group termed the metals of the alkalis. Although never found free in nature, in combination the metal is abundantly and widely distributed. In the oceans alone there are estimated to be H4IXI0 12 tons of sulphate, KjSCU, but this inexhaustible store is not much drawn upon; and the "salt gardens" on the coast of France lost their industrial importance as potash-producers since the deposits at Stassfurt in Germany have come to be worked. These deposits, in addition to common salt, include the following minerals: sylvine, KC1; carnallite, KCl-MgCl 2 -6H 2 O (transparent, deliquescent crystals, often red with diffused oxide of iron); kainite, K 2 SO 4 -MgSO 4 -MgCl26H 2 (hard crystalline masses, permanent in the air) ; kieserite MgSCvH 2 O (only very slowly dissolved by water); besides polyhalite, MgSO 4 -K 2 SO 4 -2CaSO 4 -2H 2 O anhydrite, CaSO 4 ; salt, NaCl, and some minor components. These potassium minerals are not confined to Stassfurt; larger quantities of sylvine and kainite are met with in the salt mines of Kalusz in the eastern Carpathian Mountains. The Stassfurt minerals owe their industrial importance to their solubility in water and consequent ready amenability to chemical operations. In point of absolute mass they are insignificant compared with the abundance and variety of potassiferous silicates, which occur everywhere in the earth's crust ; orthoclase (potash felspar) and potash mica may be quoted as prominent examples. Such potassiferous silicates are found in almost all rocks, both as normal and as accessory components; and their disintegration furnishes the soluble potassium salts which are found in all fertile soils. These salts are sucked up by the roots of plants, and by taking part in the process of nutrition are partly converted into oxalate, tartrate, and other organic salts, which, when the plants are burned, are converted into the carbonate, K 2 CO 3 . It is a remarkable fact that, although in a given soil the soda-content may predominate largely over the potash salts, the plants growing in the soil take up the latter: in the ashes of most land plants the potash (calculated as K 2 O) forms upwards of 90% of the total alkali. The proposition holds, in its general sense, for sea plants likewise. In ocean water the ratio of soda (NajO) to potash (K 2 O) is 100:3-23 (Dittmar); in kelp it is, on the average, too: 5-26 (Richardson). Ashes particularly rich in potash are those of burning nettles, wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), fumitory (Fumaria officinalis), and tobacco. In fact, the ashes of herbs generally are richer in potash than those of the trunks and branches of trees; yet, for obvious reasons, the latter are of greater industrial importance as sources of potassium carbonate. According to Liebig, potassium is the essential alkali of the animal body; and it may be noted that sheep excrete most of the potassium which they take from the land as sweat, one-third of the weight of raw merino consisting of potassium compounds.
To Sir Humphry Davy belongs the merit of isolating this element from potash, which itself had previously been considered an element. On placing a piece of potash on a platinum plate, connected to the negative of a powerful electric battery, and bringing a platinum wire, connected to the positive of the battery, to the surface of the potassium a vivid action was observed: gas was evolved at the upper surface of the fused globule of potash, whilst at the lower surface, adjacent to the platinum plate, minute metallic globules were formed, some of which immediately inflamed, whilst others merely tarnished. In 1808 Gay-Lussac and Thenard (Ann. chim. 65, P- 3 2 5) obtained the metal by passing melted potash down a clay tube containing iron turnings or wire heated to whiteness, and Caradau (ibid. 66, p. 97) effected the same decomposition with charcoal at a white heat. This last process was much improved by Brunner, Wo'hler, and especially by F. M. L. Donny and J. D. B. Mareska (Ann. Mm. phys., 1852, (3)> 35> P- I 47)- Brunner's process consisted in forming an intimate mixture of potassium carbonate and carbon by igniting crude tartar in covered iron crucibles, cooling the mass, and then distilling it at a white heat from iron bottles, the vaporized metal being condensed beneath the surface of paraffin or naphtha contained in a copper vessel. It was found, however, that if the cooling be not sufficiently rapid explosions occurred owing to the combination of the metal with carbon monoxide (produced in the oxidation of the charcoal) to form the potassium salt of hexaoxybenzene. In Mareska and Donny's process the condensation is effected in a shallow iron box, which has a large exposed surface, capable of being cooled by damped cloths. When the distillation is finished the iron box, after cooling, is undamped and the product turned out beneath the surface of paraffin. It is purified by redistilling and condensing directly under paraffin. Electrolytic processes have also been devised. Linnemann (Journ. Prak. Chem., 1858, 73, p. 413) obtained the metal on a small scale by electrolysing potassium cyanide between carbon electrodes; A. Matthiessen (Journ. Chem. Soc., 1856, p. 30) electrolysed an equimolecular mixture of potassium and calcium chlorides (which melts at a lower temperature than potassium chloride) also between carbon electrodes; whilst Castner's process, in which caustic potash is electrolysed, is employed commercially. The metal, however, is not in great demand, for it is generally found that sodium (q.v.), which is cheaper, and, weight for weight, more reactive, will fulfil any purpose for which potassium may be desired.
Pure potassium is a silvery white metal tinged with blue; but on exposure to air it at once forms a film of oxide, and on prolonged exposure deliquesces into a solution of hydrate and carbonate. Perfectly dry oxygen, however, has no action upon it. At temperatures below o C. it is pretty hard and brittle; at the ordinary temperature it is so soft that it can be kneaded between the fingers and cut with a blunt knife. Its specific gravity is 0-865; hence it is the lightest metal known except lithium. It fuses at 62-5C. (Bunsen) and boils at 667, emitting an intensely green vapour. It may be obtained crystallized in quadratic octahedra of a greenish-blue colour, by melting in a sealed tube containing an inert gas, and inverting the tube when the metal has partially solidified. When heated in air it fuses and then takes fire, burning into a mixture of oxides. Most remarkable, and characteristic for the group it represents, is its action on water. A pellet of potassium when thrown on water at once bursts out into a violet flame and the burning metal fizzes about on the surface, its extremely high temperature precluding absolute contact with the liquid, exceot at the very end, when the last remnant, through loss of temperature, is wetted by the water and bursts with explosive violence. The reaction may be written 2K+ 2H 2 O = 2KOH+H 2 , and the flame is due to the combustion of the hydrogen, the violet colour being occasioned by the potassium vapour. The metal also reacts with alcohol to form potassium ethylate, while hydrogen escapes, this time without inflammation: K+C 2 H 6 -OH = C 2 H 5 -OK-|-H. When the oxide-free metal is heated gently in dry ammonia it is gradually transformed into a blue liquid, which on cooling freezes into a yellowish-brown or flesh-coloured solid, potassamide, KNH 2 . When heated to redness the amide is decomposed into ammonia and potassium nitride, NKj, which is an almost black solid. Both it and the amide decompose water readily with formation of ammonia and caustic potash. Potassium at temperatures from 2ooto 4ooC. occludes hydrogen gas, the highest degree of saturation corresponding approximately to the formula K 2 H. In a vacuum or in sufficiently dilute hydrogen the compound from 200 upwards loses hydrogen, until the tension of the free gas has arrived at the maximum value characteristic of that temperature (Troost and Hautefeuille).
Oxides and Hydroxide. Potassium forms two well-defined oxides, K 2 O and K 2 O<, whilst several others, of less certain existence, have been described. The monoxide, K 2 O, may be obtained by strongly heating the product or burning the metal in slightly moist air; by heating the hydroxide with the metal: 2KHO+2K = 2K 2 O+H 2 ; or by passing pure and almost dry air over the molten metal (Kuhnemann, Chem. Centr., 1863, p. 491). It forms a grey brittle mass, having a conchoidal fracture; it is very deliquescent, combining very energetically with water to form caustic potash. According to Holt and Sims (Journ. Chem. Soc., 1894, p. 438), the substance as obtained above always contains free potassium.
Potassium hydroxide or caustic potash, KOH, formerly considered to be an oxide but shown subsequently to be a hydroxide of potassium, may be obtained by dissolving the metal or monoxide in water, but is manufactured by double decomposition from potassium carbonate and slaked lime: K 2 CO 3 +Ca(OH) 2 =2KOH+CaCO s . A solution of one part of the carbonate in 12 parts of water is heated to boiling in a cast-iron vessel (industrially by means of steampipes) and the milk of lime added in instalments until a sample of the filtered mixture no longer effervesces with an excess of acid. The mixture is then allowed to settle in the iron vessel, access of air being prevented as much as practicable, and the clear liquor is syphoned off. The remaining mud of calcium carbonate and hydrate is washed, by decantation, with small instalments of hot water to recover at least part of the alkali diffused throughout it, but this process must not be continued too long or else some of the lime passes into solution. The liquors after a concentration in iron vessels are now evaporated in a silver dish, until the heavy vapour of the hydrate is seen to go off. The residual oily liquid is then poured out into a polished iron tray, or into an iron mould to produce the customary form of " sticks," and allowed to cool. The solid must be at once bottled, because it attracts the moisture and carbonic acid of the air with great avidity and deliquesces. According to Dittmar (Journ. Soc. Chem. Ind., May 1884), nickel basins are far better adapted than iron basins for the preliminary concentration of potash ley. The latter begin to oxidize before the ley has come up to the traditional strength of specific gravity I -333 when cold, while nickel is not attacked so long as the percentage of real KHO is short of 60. For the fusion of the dry hydrate nickel vessels cannot be used; in fact, even silver is perceptibly attacked as soon as all the excess of water is away; absolutely pure KHO can be produced only in gold vessels. Glass and (to a less extent) porcelain are attacked by caustic potash ley, slowly in the cold, more readily on boiling.
Solid caustic potash forms an opaque, white, stone-like mass of dense granular fracture; specific gravity 2'l. It fuses considerably below and is perceptibly volatile at a red heat. At a white heat the vapour breaks down into potassium, hydrogen and oxygen. It is extremely soluble in even cold water, and in any proportion of water on boiling. On crystallizing a solution, the hydrate KOH-2H 2 O is deposited; 2KOH-9H 2 O and 2KOH-sH 2 O have also been obtained. The solution is intensely " alkaline " to testpapers. It readily dissolves the epidermis of the skin and many other kinds of animal tissue hence the former application of the " sticks " in surgery. A dilute potash readily emulsionizes fats, and on boiling saponifies them with formation of a soap and glycerin. All commercial caustic potash is contaminated with excess of water (over and above that in the KHO) and with potassium carbonate and chloride; sulphate, as a rule, is absent. A preparation sufficing for most purposes is obtained by digesting the commercial article in absolute alcohol, decanting and evaporating the solution to dryness and fusing in silver vessels.
The peroxide, K 2 p 4 , discovered by Gay-Lussac and Thnard, is obtained by heating the metal in an excess of slightly moist air or oxygen. Vernon Harcourt (Journ. Chem. Soc., 1862, p. 267) recommends melting the. metal in a flask filled with nitrogen and gradually displacing this gas by oxygen; the first formed grey film on the metal changes to a deep blue, and then the gas is rapidly absorbed, the film becoming white and afterwards yellow. It is a dark yellow powder, which fuses at a high temperature, the liquid on cooling depositing shining tabular crystals; at a white heat it loses oxygen and yields the monoxide. Exposed to moist air it loses oxygen, possibly giving the dioxide, K 2 O 2 ; water reacts with it, evolving much heat and giving caustic potash, hydrogen peroxide and oxygen; whilst carbon monoxide gives potassium carbonate and oxygen at temperatures below 100. A violent reaction ensues with phosphorus and sulphur, and many metals are oxidized by it, some with incandescence.
Halogen Compounds. Potassium fluoride, KF, is a very deliquescent salt, crystallizing in cubes and having a sharp saline taste, which is formed by neutralizing potassium carbonate or hydroxide with hydrofluoric acid and concentrating in platinum vessels. It forms the acid fluoride KHFj when dissolved in aqueous hydrofluoric acid, a salt which at a red heat gives the normal fluoride and hydrofluoric acid. Other salts of composition KF-2HF and KF-3HF, have been described by Moissan (Compt. rend., 1888, 106, p. 547).
Potassium chloride, KC1, also known as muriate of potash, closely resembles ordinary salt. It is produced in immense quantities at Stassfurt from the so-called " Abraumsalze." For the purpose of the manufacturer of this salt these are assorted into a raw material containing approximately, in 100 parts, 55-65 of carnallite (representing 16 parts of potassium chloride), 20-25 of common salt, 15-20 of kieserite; 2-^4 of tachhydrite (CaCl 2 -2MgCl 2 -l2H 2 O), and minor components. This mixture is now wrought mainly in two ways, (i) The salt is dissolved in water with the help of steam, and the solution is cooled down to from 60 to 70, when a quantity of impure common salt crystallizes out, which is removed. The decanted ley deposits on standing a 70% potassium chloride, which is purified by washing with cold water. Common salt principally goes into solution, and the percentage may thus be brought up to from 80 to 95. The mother-liquor from the 70% chloride is evaporated, the common salt which separates out in the heat removed as it appears, and the sufficiently concentrated liquor allowed to crystallize, when almost pure carnallite separates out, which is easily decomposed into its components (see infra). (2) Ziervogel and Tuchen's method. The crude salt is ground up and then heated in a concentrated solution of magnesium chloride with agitation. The carnallite principally dissolves and crystallizes out relatively pure on cooling. The mother-liquor is used for a subsequent extraction of fresh raw salt. The carnallite produced is dissolved in hot water and the solution allowed to cool, when it deposits a coarse granular potassium chloride containing up to. 99 % of the pure substance. The undissolved residue produced in either process consists chiefly of kieserite and common salt. It is worked up either for Epsom salt and common salt, or for sodium sulphate and magnesium chloride. The potassiferous by-products are utilized for the manufacture of manures.
Chemically pure chloride of potassium is most conveniently prepared from the pure perchlorate by heating it in a platinum basin at the lowest temperature and then fusing the residue in a wellcovered platinum crucible. The fused product solidifies on cooling into a colourless glass.
When hydrochloric acid gas is passed into the solution the salt is completely precipitated as a fine powder. If the original solution contained the chlorides of magnesium or calcium or sulphate of potassium all impurities remain in the mother-liquor (the sulphur as KHSCh), and can be removed by washing the precipitate with strong hydrochloric acid. The salt crystallizes in cubes of specific gravity 1.995; '* melts at about 800 and volatilizes at a bright red heat. When melted in a current of hydrogen or electrolysed in the same condition, a dark blue mass is obtained of uncertain composition. It is extensively employed for the preparation of other potassium salts, but the largest quantity (especially of the impure product) is used in the production of artificial manures.
Potassium bromide, KBr, may be obtained by dissolving bromine in potash, whereupon bromide and bromate are first formed, evaporating and igniting the product in order to decompose the bromate: 6KHO + 3Br 2 = sKBr + KBrO, + 3H 2 O; 2KBrO 8 = 2KBr + 30, (cf. CHLORATES) ; but it is manufactured by acting with bromine water on iron filings and decomposing the iron bromide thus formed with potassium carbonate. In appearance it closely resembles the chloride, forming colourless cubes which readily dissolve in water and melt at 722. It combines with bromine to form an unstable tribromide, KBrs (see F. P. Worley, Journ. Chem. Soc., 1905, 87, p. 1 107).
Potassium iodide, KI, is obtained by dissolving iodine in potash, the deoxidation of the iodate being facilitated by the addition of charcoal before ignition, proceeding as with the bromide. The commercial salt usually has an alkaline reaction ; it may be purified by dissolving in the minimum amount of water, and neutralizing with dilute sulphuric acid; alcohol is now added to precipitate the potassium sulphate, the solution filtered and crystallized. It forms colourless cubes which are readily soluble in water, melt at 685, and yield a vapour of normal density. It is sparingly soluble in absolute alcohol. Both the iodide and bromide are used in photography. Iodine dissolves in an aqueous solution of the salt to form a dark brown liquid, which on evaporation over sulphuric acid gives black acicular crystals of the tn-iodide, KI 3 . This salt is very deliquescent; it melts at 45, and at 100 decomposes into iodine and potassium iodide. For the oxyhalogen salts see CHLORATE, CHLORINE, BROMINE and IODINE.
Potassium carbonate, K 2 COs, popularly known as " potashes," was originally obtained in countries where wood was cheap by lixiviating wood ashes in wooden tubs, evaporating the solution to dryness in iron pots and calcining the residue; in more recent practice the calcination is carried out in reverberatory furnaces. This product, known as " crude potashes," contains, in addition to carbonate, varying amounts of sulphate and chloride and also insoluble matter. Crude potash is used for the manufacture of glass, and, after being causticized, for the making of soft soap. For many other purposes it must be refined, which is done by treating the crude product with the minimum of cold water required to dissolve the carbonate, removing the undissolved part (which consists chiefly of sulphate), and evaporating the clear liquor to dryness in an iron pan. The purified carbonate (which still contains most of the chloride of the raw material and other impurities) is known as " pearl ashes." Large quantities of carbonate used to be manufactured from the aqueous residue left in the distillation of beet-root spirit, i.e. indirectly from beet-root molasses. The liquors are evaporated to dryness and the residue is ignited to obtain a very impure carbonate, which is purified by methods founded on the different solubilities of the several components. Most of the carbonate which now occurs in commerce is made from the chloride of the Stassfurt beds by an adaptation of the " Leblanc process " for the conversion of common salt into soda ash (see ALKALI MANUFACTURE).
Chemically pure carbonate of potash is best prepared by igniting pure bicarbonate (see below) in iron or (better) in silver or platinum vessels, or else by calcining pure cream of tartar. The latter operation furnishes an intimate mixture of the carbonate with charcoal, from which the carbonate is extracted by lixiviation with water and filtration. The filtrate is evaporated to dryness (in iron or platinum vessels) and the residue fully dehydrated by gentle ignition. The salt is thus obtained as a white porous mass, fusible at a red heat (838 C., Carnelley) into a colourless liquid, which solidifies into a white opaque mass. The dry salt is very hygroscopic; it deliquesces into an oily solution ("oleum tartari ) in ordinary air. The most saturated solution contains 205 parts of the salt to 100 of water and boils at 135. On crystallizing a solution monoclinic crystals of 2K 2 CO.3H 2 O are deposited, which at 1 00 lose water and give a white powder of K 2 CO.H 2 O; this is completely dehydrated at 130. The carbonate, being insoluble in strong alcohol (and many other liquid organic compounds), is much used for dehydration of the corresponding aqueous preparations. The pure carbonate is constantly used in the laboratory as a basic substance generally, for the disintegration of silicates, and as a precipitant. The industrial preparation serves for the making of flint glass, of potash soap (soft soap) and of caustic potash.
Potassium bicarbonate, KHCOj, is obtained when carbonic acid is passed through a cold solution of the ordinary carbonate as long as it is absorbed. Any silicate present is also converted into bicarbonate with elimination of silica, which must be filtered off. The filtrate is evaporated at a temperature not exceeding 60 or at most 70" C. ; after sufficient concentration it deposits on cooling anhydrous crystals of the salt, while the potassium chloride, which may be present as an impurity, remains mostly in the motherliquor; the rest is easily removed by repeated recrystallization. If an absolutely pure preparation is wanted it is best to follow Wohler and start with the " black flux " produced by the ignition of pure bitartrate. The flux is moistened with water and exposed to a current of carbonic acid, which, on account of the condensing action of the charcoal, is absorbed with great avidity. The bicarbonate forms large monoclinic prisms, permanent in the air. When the dry salt is heated to 190 it decomposes into normal carbonate, carbon dioxide and water.
Potassium sulphide, K Z S, was obtained by Berzelius in pale red crystals by passing hydrogen over potassium sulphate, and by Berthier as a flesh-coloured mass by heating the sulphate with carbon. It appears, however, that these products contain higher sulphides. On saturating a solution of caustic potash with sulphuretted hydrogen and adding a second equivalent of alkali, a solution is obtained which on evaporation in a vacuum deposits crystals of K 2 S.sH 2 O. The solution is strongly caustic. It turns yellow on exposure to air, absorbing oxygen and carbon dioxide and forming thiosulphate and potassium carbonate and liberating sulphuretted hydrogen, which decomposes into water and sulphur, the latter combining with the monosulphide to form higher salts. The solution also decomposes on boiling. The hydrosulphide, KHS, was obtained by Gay-Lussac on heating the metal in sulphuretted hydrogen, and by Berzelius on acting with sulphuretted hydrogen on potassium carbonate at a dull red heat. It forms a yellowishwhite deliquescent mass, which melts on heating, and at a sufficiently high temperature it yields a dark red liquid. It is readily soluble in water, and on evaporation in a vacuum over caustic lime it deposits colourless, rhombohedral crystals of 2KHS.H 2 O. The solution is more easily prepared by saturating potash solution with sulphuretted hydrogen. The solution has a bitter taste, and on exposure to the air turns yellow, but on long exposure it recovers its original colourless appearance owing to the formation of thiosulphate. Liver of sulphur or hepar stuphuris, a medicine known to the alchemists, is a mixture of various polysulphides with the sulphate and thiosulphate, in variable proportions, obtained by gently heating the carbonate with sulphur in covered vessels. It forms a liver-coloured mass. In the pharmacopoeia it is designated potojsa sulphur ata.
Potassium sulphite, K 2 SOi, is prepared by saturating a potash solution w'ith sulphur dioxide, adding a second equivalent of potash, and crystallizing in a vacuum, when the salt separates as small deliquescent, hexagonal crystals. The salt KjSOa-HjO may be obtained by crystallizing the metabisulphite, KjSjOs (from sulphur dioxide and a hot saturated solution of the carbonate, or from sulphur dioxide and a mixture of milk of lime and potassium sulphate) with an equivalent amount of potash. The salt K 2 SO 3 -2H2O is obtained as oblique rhombic octahedra by crystallizing the solution over sulphuric acid. On the isomeric potassium sodium sulphites see SULPHUR.
Potassium sulphate, KjSOi, a salt known early in the 14th century, and studied by Glauber, Boyle and Tachenius, was styled in the 17th century arcanum or sal duplicatum, being regarded as a combination of an acid salt with an alkaline salt. It was obtained as a by-product in many chemical reactions, and subsequently used to be extracted from kainite, one of the Stassfurt minerals, but the process is now given up because the salt can be produced cheaply enough from the chloride by decomposing it with sulphuric acid and calcining the residue. To purify the crude product it is dissolved in hot water and the solution filtered and allowed to cool, when the bulk of the dissolved salt crystallizes out with characteristic promptitude. The very beautiful (anhydrous) crystals have the habit of a double six-sided pyramid, but really belong to the rhombic system. They are transparent, very hard and absolutely permanent in the air. They have a bitter, salty taste. The salt is soluble in water, but insoluble in caustic potash of sp. gr. 1-35, and in absolute alcohol. It fuses at 1078. The crude salt is used occasionally in the manufacture of glass. The acid sulphate or bisulphate, KHSO<, is readily produced by fusing thirteen parts of the powdered normal salt with eight parts of sulphuric acid. It forms rhombic pyramids, which melt at 197. It dissolves in three parts of water of o C. The solution behaves pretty much as if its two congeners, KzSO and H 2 SO<, were present side by side of each other uncombined. An excess of alcohol, in fact, precipitates normal sulphate (with little bisulphate) and free acid remains in solution. Similar is the behaviour of the fused dry salt at a dull red heat; it acts on silicates, titanates, etc., as if it were sulphuric acid raised beyond its natural boiling point. Hence its frequent application in analysis as a disintegrating agent. For the salts of other sulphur acids, see SULPHUR.
Potassamide, NH2K, discovered by Gay-Lussac and Thenard in 1871, is obtained as an olive green or brown mass by gently heating the metal in ammonia gas, or as a white, waxy, crystalline mass when the metal is heated in a silver boat. It decomposes in moist air, or with water, giving caustic potash and ammonia, in the latter case with considerable evolution of heat. On strong heating Tithesley (Journ. Ghent. Soc., 1894, p. 511) found that it decomposed into its elements. For the nitrite, see NITROGEN, for the nitrate see SALTPETRE and for the cyanide see PRUSSIC ACID; for other salts see the articles wherein the corresponding acid receives treatment.
Analysis, etc. All volatile potassium compounds impart a violet coloration to the Bunsen flame, which is masked, however, if sodium be present. The emission spectrum shows two lines, Ko, a double line towards the infra-red, and K/3 in the violet. The chief insoluble salts are the perchlorate, acid-tartrate and platinochloride. The atomic weight was determined by Stas and more recently by T. W. Richards and A. Stahler, who obtained the value 39-114 from analyses of the chloride, and by Richards and E. Meuller, who obtained the values 39-1135 and 39-1143 from analyses of the bromide (see Abs. J. C. S., 1907, ii. 615).
Pharmacology. Numerous salts and preparations of potassium are used in medicine; viz. Potassii Carboms (salt of tartar), dose 5 to 20 grs., from which are made (a) Potassii Bicarbonas, dose 5 to 30 grs. ; (b) Potassa Caustica, a powerful caustic not used internally. From caustic potash are made (i) Potassii Permanganas, dose i to 3 grs., used in preparing Liquor Potassii Permanganalis, a i % solution, dose 2 to 4 drs. (2) Potassii lodidum, dose 5 to 20 grs. ; from this are made the Linamentum Potassii lodidi cum sapone, strength i in 10, and the Unguentum Potassii lodidi, strength i in 10. (3) Potassii Bromidum, dose 5 to 30 grs. (4) Liquor Potassae, strength 27 grs. of caustic potash to the oz. Potassii Citras, dose 10 to 40 grs. Potassii Acetas, dose 10 to 60 grs. Potassii Chloras, dose 5 to 15 grs., from which is made a lozenge, Trochiscus Potassii Chloratis, each containing 3 grs. Potassii Tartras Acidus (cream of tartar), dose 20 to 60 grs., which has a subpreparation Potassii Tartras, dose 30 to 60 grs. Potassii Nitras (saltpetre), dose 5 to 20 grs. Potassii Sulphas, dose 10 to 40 grs. Potassii Bichromas, dose tS to gr.
Toxicology. -Poisoning by caustic potash may take place or poisoning by pearl ash containing caustic potash. A caustic taste in the mouth is quickly followed by burning abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea, with a feeble pulse and a cold clammy skin; the post-mortem appearances are those of acute gastrointestinal irritation. The treatment is washing out the stomach or giving emetics followed by vinegar or lemon juice and later oil and white of egg.
Therapeutics. Externally: Caustic potash is a most powerful irritant and caustic; it is used with lime in making Vienna paste, which is occasionally used to destroy morbid growths. Liquor potassae is also used in certain skin diseases. The permanganate of potash is an irritant if used pure. Its principal action is as an antiseptic and disinfectant. If wet it oxidizes the products of decomposition. It is used in the dressing of foul ulcers. The I % solution is an antidote for snake-bite.
Internally: Dilute solutions of potash, like other alkalis, are used to neutralize the poisonous effects of strong acids. In the stomach potassium salts neutralize the gastric acid, and hence small doses are useful in hypcrchloridia. Potassium salts are strongly diuretic, acting directly on the renal epithelium. They are quickly excreted in the urine, rendering it alkaline and thus more able to hold uric acid in solution. They also hinder the formation of uric acid calculi. The acetate and the citrate are valuable mild diuretics in Bright's disease and in feverish conditions, and by increasing the amount of urine diminish the pathological fluids in pleuritic effusion, ascites, etc. In tubal nephritis they aid the excretion of fatty casts. The tartrate and acid tartrate are also diuretic in their action and, as well as the sulphate, are valuable hydragogue saline purgatives. Potassium nitrate is chiefly used to make nitre paper, which on burning emits fumes useful in the treatment of the asthmatic paroxysm. Lozenges of potassium chlorate are used in stomatitis, tonsilitis and pharyngitis, it can also be used in a gargle, 10 grs. to I fl. oz. of water. Its therapeutic action is said to be due to nascent oxygen given off, so it is local in its action. In large doses it is a dangerous poison, converting the oxyhaemoglobin of the blood into methaemoglobin. Internally the permanganate is a valuable antidote in opium poisoning. The action of potassium bromide and potassium iodide has been treated under bromine and iodine (q.v.). All potassium salts if taken in large doses are cardiac depressants, they also depress the nervous system, especially the brain and spinal cord. Like all alkalis if given in quantities they increase metabolism.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)