Who Discovered Potassium?

Alkali metals never occur by themselves; they always combine in nature. They are very reactive and hard to reduce. Isolating metals is usually done with carbon or hydrogen. Being very hard to reduce, this doesn't work with alkali metals. To isolate them to their pure form of metal something that could separate alkali metals was needed.

The concept that electricity was involved in chemical union was what Sir Humphrey Davy adhered to and so he thought that a strong current of electricity could uncombined the compounds. Thus, new elements would be isolated. He tested his hypothesis in 1897.; he ran his test on potash, which is potassium hydroxide; he also tested caustic soda. Scientists had thus far thought that they were oxides of metals not known.

He used a very large battery and copper and zinc plated for his experiment. When he tested the potash and it got enough electrical charge the final effect was that potassium isolated from the potash and burst into flames. Davy's brother says that the scientist danced trough the room-excited to the point of ecstasy. Potassium was the first alkali metal to be isolated by electrolysis. It is a good conductor of heat and electricity. It is also malleable and soft. It is sometimes replaced for table salt.

The next time you take your potassium supplement you can thank sir Humphrey Davy for his experiment and discovery of isolated potassium. Without his work later methods for making supplements wouldn't have included the mineral potassium or the idea that it was good for you.

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