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Potassium nitrate

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Potassium nitrate
Systematic name Potassium Nitrate
Other names Saltpeter or Niter
Molecular formula KNO3
Molar mass Molar mass::101.1032 g/mol
Appearance whitish transparent solid and is flaky,
CAS number CAS number::7757-79-1
Density and phase Density::1.00 g/ml, ?
Solubility in water 33 g/100 ml (?°C)
Melting point Melting point::100°C
Boiling point Boiling point::334°C
Basicity (pKb) 15.3
Molecular shape Triagonal Planar
Crystal structure orthorhombic
Dipole moment No Permanent Dipole Moment D
MSDS Material safety data sheet
Main hazards Exposure can cause mild irritation
of eyes, nose and throat.
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for
materials in their standard state (at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Disclaimer and references


Potassium nitrate is an inorganic compound.


A white powder, also translucent, which is sometimes found in a powdery crust form on cave walls, it is soluble in water but can also burn underwater. This is due to its properties as an oxidizer. These properties also allow it to readily combine and react with reducing agents such as sugar (used in model rocket fuel). It can be mixed with other substances by melting the substances at low temperature and, as would be expected, pure potassium nitrate will explode if left to prolonged flame. Dangerous levels of nitrogen can be produced when burned without proper ventilation. [1]

Synthesis / Occurrences


When Potassium Nitrate is commercially produced Potassium chloride is used as the potassium source. For the the nitrogen or nitrate source there are many different compounds that have been used. These include Sodium Nitrate, Nitric Acid, and Ammonium Nitrate. The equations below show the processes which Potassium Nitrate is commercially produced. [2]

KCl+ NaNO3 = KNO3 + NaCl

KCl+ HNO3 = KNO3 + HCl

KCl+ NH4NO3 = KNO3 + NH4Cl

Niter, which is the mineral form of Potassium Nitrate, is found on cave walls. It forms in whitish crusty and powdery streaks on the walls. The environment (in the cave) can not usually have a lot of flowing water because the niter would easily be dissolved. It can actually dissolve in air, in a process when there is so much moisture in the air that it will pull the water particles out of the air thus dissolving itself.[3]


Potassium Nitrate is an oxidizer. Because of this it is used in black powder (75% Potassium Nitrate, 15% Charcoal, 10% sulfur) and other forms of pyrotechnics.These include rocket candy, (which is different than rocket fuel because it is used in model rockets and features sugar as a main ingredient) fireworks, and the combustion process of old time revolvers. [4]

Interestingly enough, the same explosive substance is consumed by people everyday. It is used as a preservative for meats known as saltpeter. Although rumors circulate that it can be a carcinogen, no proof or evidence is able to back up the claim, people have even warned about apples causing cancer (which is ridiculous) so I wouldn't take this claim into account. The fact that the substance is largely made up of potassium, which is a important plant food, is why farmers use it commercially as a fertilizer. Potassium has not been known to have an exact use in plants but it promotes early growth in plants and makes water use much more efficient, also potassium helps prevent plant disease. It is essential for the health of a plant. [5] It is also used in certain toothpastes but is not a prominent ingredient. It is added for people with sensitive teeth.



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  1. Wikipedia Crew Potassium Nitrate Wikipedia. Last modified on 4 February 2015, at 01:51
  2. Potassium Nitrate Association. Production Processes Potassium Nitrate Association. Last Updated on Friday, 20 January 2012 09:46
  3. Amethyst Galleries Inc. The Minreal Niter Amethyst Galleries Inc.. 1995 Date of Publication
  4. Free Science Encyclopedia. Potassium Nitrate Science encyclopedia. Date of Publication 2005
  5. Rehm George. Potassium for crop production University of Montana. 2002. Date of Publication