What is Potassium Fluoride?
In chemistry potassium fluoride comes under the category of alkali metal halides. An alkali metal halide comprises of an alkali metal and a halide. Alkali metals belong to the group 1 elements of the chemistry periodic table. The elements in this group range from Lithium to Francium. They are highly reactive and the reactivity increase when we move down the group from Lithium to Francium. On account of this high reactivity, these form stable ionic compounds with halogens of the seventh group in the periodic table and are hence termed as ‘alkali metal halides’. These are generally crystalline solids and are soluble in water. Potassium Fluoride is a good example for a typical alkali metal halide.
The chemical formula for potassium fluoride is KF. In chemical synthesis and manufacture, the need for fluoride ion is satiated primarily by hydrogen fluoride; the second place always goes to potassium fluoride. Potassium fluoride can be refined from ‘Carobbiite’, a form which occurs very rarely in nature. When taken in glass containers it can cause etching of the glass due to the formation of soluble fluorosilicates, but not to an extent the more reactive hydrogen fluorides can harm glass containers.
Potassium fluoride comes as colorless and odorless crystals, powder or solution. It is toxic if inhaled or ingested. Potassium Fluoride mainly affects the upper respiratory tract and can cause breathing difficulties, cough or mild respiratory irritation. Also, repeated or prolonged exposure can cause sore throat, nose bleeding or chronic bronchitis. Contact of potassium fluoride with eye can cause burn, redness, lachrymation or swelling of the tissues. Though it can cause only irritation on skin contact, if ingested it can cause burns to mouth as well as throat. It can also cause a danger of perforation of the oesophagus and the stomach as well. Hypocalcaemia with nervous problems, cardiac arrhythmia, risk of convulsions, loss of consciousness, deep coma and cardiopulmonary arrest are other dangers due to potassium fluoride ingestion. Symptoms on ingestion include nausea, bloody vomiting, cough, diarrhea, severe shortness of breath as well as abdominal pain.
First aids for potassium fluoride inhalation are removing casualty to fresh air, providing artificial respiration or oxygen if needed, and arranging the victim immediate medical care. For skin contacts, immediately remove contaminated clothes and wash off with plenty of water. For eye contacts, immediate medical care is advised, after a sudden wash with plenty of water. Finally for ingestion, hospitals are the best options.
Potassium fluoride is not flammable and also non-combustible, although it can release hazardous gases on heating. It releases hydrogen on reaction with metals. When decompose, hazardous hydrogen fluoride is formed. It’s always advisable for fire-fighters to reach this chemical with suitable chemical resistant over-suit as well as personnel protective equipments.
Potassium Fluoride is widely used for etching of glass, insecticide formulations as well as a flux for soldering. It is also used as a preservative. Potassium Fluoride has immense application in organic chemistry, of which, one notable application is the conversion of chlorocarbons to fluorocarbons. Though harmful, in very minute concentrations it is used in medical applications as well.