In 1807, potassium metal was first isolated using an electrolysis apparatus. When electrodes were immersed in a bath of molten potassium hydroxide and a voltage was applied across the electrodes, liquid potassium metal collected around the cathode. A few months later, the same procedure was used to isolate sodium metal.

Pure potassium metal is very soft. It reacts with the oxygen in dry air to produce a powerful oxidizing agent, potassium superoxide, K2O. In moist air, potassium hydroxide, KOH, is produced. Because of its instability in air, potassium is usually stored in kerosene.

Potassium chloride, KCl, occurs in many natural deposits. Enormous deposits are located in Saskatchewan, Canada. The fertilizer industry refers to any potassium salt as potash. The main salts used are the chloride, KCl, the nitrate, KNO3, and the sulphate, K2SO4. Canada produces about 25% of the world production of potash from deposits in the Prairie Evaporite Formation in Saskatchewan.

Listed below are the principal uses of potassium are in the form of compounds:

BCIT Chemistry Resource Center