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10 Potassium Facts

10 Fun Facts about Potassium

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These are chunks of potassium metal. Potassium is a soft, silvery-white metal that quickly oxidizes.

These are chunks of potassium metal. Potassium is a soft, silvery-white metal that quickly oxidizes.

Dnn87, Creative Commons License This diagram shows the electron shell configuration of a potassium atom.

This diagram shows the electron shell configuration of a potassium atom.

Greg Robson, Creative Commons License It's easy to make violet fire. Just ignite a mixture of potassium chloride and methanol.

It's easy to make violet fire. Just ignite a mixture of potassium chloride and methanol.

Anne Helmenstine

Potassium is a light metallic element that forms many important compounds and is essential for human nutrition. Learn about the element potassium. Here are 10 fun and interesting potassium facts. You can get more details about potassium on the potassium facts page.

  1. Potassium is element number 19. This means the atomic number of potassium is 19 or each potassium atom has 19 protons.

     

  2. Potassium is one of the alkali metals, which means it is a highly reactive metal with a valence of 1.

     

  3. Because of its high reactivity, potassium is not found free in nature. It is formed by supernovas via the R-process and occurs on Earth dissolved in seawater and in ionic salts.

     

  4. Pure potassium is a lightweight silvery metal that is soft enough to cut with a knife.

     

  5. 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.

     

  6. The potassium ion is important for all living cells. Animals use sodium ions and potassium ions to generate electric potentials. This is vital for many cellular processes and is the basis for the conduction of nerve impulses.

     

  7. Potassium was first purified in 1807 by Sir Humphry Davy from caustic potash (KOH) via electrolysis. Potassium was the first metal to be isolated using electrolysis.

     

  8. Potassium compounds emit a lilac or violet flame color when burned.

     

  9. 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.

     

  10. 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.

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