Potassium Carbonate >
Grades: Technical and Food grades, available in powder, prills and solution.
Packaging: Material is available in bags for solids and in IBC's or bulk road tankers for solutions.
Availability: Normally a stock item.
Material: Potassium Carbonate is a white and odourless salt, typically found in a powder or crystalline granulated form. When dissolved in water, it forms a strongly alkaline solution which is translucent and odourless. Potassium carbonate is not soluble in alcohol.
As a result of its notable water absorbent qualities, potassium carbonate is considered to be a deliquescent salt. Through absorbing water in the atmosphere, potassium carbonate frequently appears as a damp or wet solid.
You may also see potassium carbonate referred to under the following names:
Carbonate of Potash
Salt of Tartar
Salt of Wormwood
To create potassium carbonate, potassium chloride is subjected to electrolysis in order to produce potassium hydroxide. This is then reacted with carbon dioxide to produce the required potassium carbonate. Alternatively, potassium chloride and magnesium carbonate can be heated together under pressure, along with water and carbon dioxide.
Uses Of Potassium Carbonate
Potassium carbonate is widely used as an ingredient in cooking and food production, particularly in the cuisine of China and Southeast Asia. For example, it is used in Chinese hand-pulled noodles, grass jelly and moon cake. Potassium carbonate is also used in the tenderisation of tripe. Some German gingerbread recipes require potassium carbonate in small quantities but these should only be executed by cooks trained to use it and who are fully aware of the dangers.
Potassium carbonate’s ability to form a strongly alkaline solution is put to use in a process known as ‘Dutching’. This is when natural cocoa powder undergoes alkalization in order to reduce its acidity and balance out the pH, thus producing a milder flavour. Dutch process chocolate forms the basis of most commercial chocolate production.
Turning to drinks, potassium carbonate is used as a buffering agent in the production of wine. This means that it is used to alter the pH and so produce a slightly different taste. The process requires chilling the wine prior to adding the potassium carbonate.
Glass manufacturers form a significant part of the potassium carbonate market, particularly producers of optical glass. As well as being highly heat-resistant, potassium carbonate is also able to boost the strength, transparency and refraction co-efficiency of the glass. Televisions screens and cathode ray tubes also require potassium carbonate.
Potassium carbonate has been used to create soap for hundreds of years, with early producers simply pouring water over burned plant ashes. This solution would then be evaporated in a pot, hence the term ‘potash’. Nowadays, potassium carbonate is used to create very soft or liquid soaps that are able to generate suds in high mineral content water.
Potassium carbonate is often used as an ingredient in animal feed in order to combat the possibility of potassium deficiency. For similar reasons, it is also added to fertiliser and pharmaceutical products, preventing deficiency in plants and humans.
Elsewhere, potassium carbonate is used in fire suppression. It is particularly suitable for B class fires, which are those fuelled by flammable liquids, such as petrol. For example, a potassium carbonate fire extinguisher would be used to excellent effect on a deep fat fryer.