Potassium - K
The name is derived from the english word potash. The chemical symbol K comes from kalium, the Mediaeval Latin for potash, which may have derived from the arabic word qali, meaning alkali.
The chemistry of potassium is almost etirely that of the potassium ion, K+.
Most potassium (95 %) goes into fertilizers and the rest goes mainly into making potassium hydroxide (KOH), by the electrolysis of potassium chloride solution, and then converting this to potassium carbonate (K2CO3). Potassium carbonate goes into glass manufacture, expecially the glass used to make televisions, while potassium hydroxide is used to make liquid soaps and detergents. A little potassium chloride goes into pharmaceuticals, medical drips and saline injections.
Potassium in the environment
Most potassium occurs in the Earth's crust as minerals, such as feldspars and clays. Potassium is leached from these by weathering, which explains why there is quite a lot of this element in the sea (0.75 g/liter).
Together with nitrogen and phosphorous, potassium is one of the essential macrominerals for plant survival. Its presence is of great importance for soil health, plant growth and animal nutrition. Its primary function in the plant is its role in the maintenance of osmotic pressure and cell size, thereby influencing photosynthesis and energy production as well as stomatal opening and carbon dioxide supply, plant turgor and translocation of nutrients. As such, the element is required in relatively large proportions by the growing plant.
The consequences of low potassium levels are apparent in a variety of symptoms: restricted growth, reduced flowering, lower yields and lower quality produce.
Check out our potassium in water page
Back to the periodic table of elements