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Potassium Chlorate Uses

By Joseph Dunbar

Potassium chlorate has the molecular formula KClO3, where the elements potassium, chlorine and oxygen are combined in a defined order to produce a white crystalline powder. Apart, these three elements can be found in bananas, as pool disinfectants and in the air, respectively. When mixed in this order, the product can be volatile. Potassium chlorate has a variety of uses in medicine, pyrotechnics and agriculture.

Preparation of Oxygen

In the laboratory, chemists can decompose potassium chlorate into oxygen, which can then be used in medicine to treat pneumonia and gas poisoning, and even as an explosive when combined in the liquid phase with powdered charcoal. Manganese dioxide is used as the catalyst--a substance that makes a chemical reaction possible--to make potassium chlorate decompose and break down faster.

Fireworks

In the 1800s, chemists found a way to combine compounds in defined order to produce fireworks. When different compounds are combined, different colors light up the night sky. Potassium chlorate was one of the first compounds used in fireworks due to its explosive nature. When fireworks are constructed, they are organized into flammable chunks called stars. They are then wrapped into a projectile shape. Once airborne, the stars explode from the firework into the air and are responsible for the bright colors. Over time, potassium chlorate was removed from fireworks as less dangerous compounds were discovered. Potassium perchlorate, which has one more oxygen than the potassium chlorate compound, is used more often.

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Tree Flowering

Dimocarpus longan, also known as the Kohala longan tree, produces fruit that grows in bunches, like grapes, yet has a tan exterior and black-seeded center. In 2009, the University of Florida conducted two experiments on Kohala longan trees in the South Florida region. It was found in both of these experiments that the application of potassium chlorate to soil induced fruit production by the trees. The soil surrounding the trees was soaked in a specified amount of the compound each time. The University of Florida researchers were unsure, however, of the toxic effects this may have on the fruit.

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