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Potassium nitrate /Salpetre
The word Kali is derived from the Arabic “kaly”, meaning ash and the word potassium comes from the term potash, or burned vegetable matter
Common name: English: Potassium nitrate; French: Azotate de potasse; German: Kaliumnitrat.
Triturations of pure nitrate of Potassium are used.
Minerals; Inorganic; Alkalis - Column One
History and authority: Proved and introduced by Hahnemann and Hecker; Hahnemann; Chronic Disease 1221; Allen: Encyclop. Mat. Med., Vol. V. 355; Hering Guiding Symptoms; Vol. VI, 459.
Description of the substance
Colourless crystals, or a white crystalline powder; odourless; taste, cool and saline. Freely soluble in water and very sparingly soluble in alcohol. Contains not less than 99.0 percent of KNO3 calculated with reference to the substance dried to constant weight at 105o
Chemically pure potassium nitrate forms either a dry, snow - white, crystalline mass, or colorless, permanent, large six - sided striated, rhombic prisms. They dissolve in four parts of water at medium temperatures, in less than half their weight of boiling water, and are insoluble in alcohol. The solutions are neutral in reaction. The crystals contain longitudinal cavities filled with the mother liquor, so that when triturated a damp powder is produced, but through the spontaneous and slow evaporation of a saturated solution, solid crystals are readily obtainable. The taste of the salt is saline, cooling and slightly bitter. The salt melts below a red heat without decomposition to a colorless liquid, and on cooling solidifies to a white opaque, radiate - crystalline mass. At a higher temperature it is decomposed with the evolution of oxygen and nitrogen, and the formation of nitrite of potassium. When thrown upon glowing coal, it deflagrates and leaves a residue which is alkaline in reaction.
Potassium nitrate is widely diffused in nature, although in small proportion, as a constituent of vegetable soil and in spring and river water. It is never found in large beds as is nitrate of sodium; it occurs in veins in sandstone in Pennsylvania and in calcareous soil in other parts of the world. In South America and in some districts of India, Arabia, Persia, Spain and Hungary, nitrates are found widely disseminated through the soil, but never at a depth lower than can be easily penetrated by the air. The formation of nitric acid in these localities is in all probability dependent on the oxidation of ammonia, for the production of saltpetre is always found to take place most abundantly where there is a large quantity of vegetable or animal matter in a state of putrefaction, or where the air contains a considerable amount of ammonia resulting from such decomposition. The luxuriant vegetation of the tropics supplies by its decay a never failing source of ammonia, and the high temperature and moisture of the air facilitate its oxidation, so that in the tropics the amount of naturally produced saltpetre is vastly in excess of that formed in Europe. An indispensable condition for the formation of nitrates in large quantity, is the presence of alkaline or earthy bases to fix the nitric acid as soon as formed. Nitrate of calcium is formed artificially in several countries in Europe, by mixing decomposing vegetable and animal matters with cinders, chalk, marl, etc., moistening the mass repeatedly with urine, exposing it freely to the air for two or three years, and then lixiviating. Nitrates are found in the juices of plants, particularly those with fleshy, tuberous roots, and are probably acquired from the soil by direct imbibition. The commercially pure salt has to be further purified before it is used in pharmacy, but this is done by the manufacturing chemist.
Niter is one of the few nitrate minerals that is available on the mineral markets. Nitrates are not all that commonly found due to their general ease in dissolving in water. In fact some solid nitrate crystals will even become liquid by removing water from the moisture in the air, a process called deliquescence. Niter however is not deliquescent, but still is very soluble in water. Most nitrates are found in arid, desert regions such as around the Persian Gulf or found as efflorescences on dry cave or mine walls.
Nitrates are similar to carbonates. The nitrogen is surrounded by three oxygens and forms a tight flat triangular NO3 ion group just like the carbonate triangular CO3 ion group. Thus nitrates are placed in the Carbonate Class of minerals.
But there are some differences. The nitrogen has a higher charge (+5) and is smaller than the carbon (+4) and thus the nitrogen holds the oxygens a lot closer and the nitrogen oxygen bonds are stronger. Also the overall charge of the nitrate ion group is only negative one (-1) compared to the carbonate's ion group's charge of negative two (-2). These differences show up in a greater difficulty in breaking apart the nitrate ion group as is usually an easy task for acids with the carbonate ion group, greater solubility and a much less diverse subclass of minerals.
Niter is most similar to the orthorhombic carbonates or those carbonates that belong to the Aragonite Group, specifically aragonite, witherite, strontianite and cerussite. The structures of niter and the members of the Aragonite Group are analogous and they therefore share many similar properties such as symmetry and crystal habits.
Another nitrate called nitratine, NaNO3 (also known as "soda niter") is structurally more similar to the Calcite Group of carbonate minerals. Nitratine in appearance is similar to niter but is deliquescent and gives a different result in a flame test. The flame test is where a sample is burned in a flame and gives off a certain color. For niter the flame should be violet, an indicator of potassium, and for nitratine the flame should be yellow, an indicator of sodium.
Niter, specifically KNO3, is also known as "saltpeter" which is said to reduce the sexual desire in humans, especially males. Kind of a reverse aphrodisiac. Ironically, it is also used as a fertilizer.
Color is white or gray, also tinted yellow or brown by impurities.
Luster is vitreous.
Transparency Crystals are translucent to transparent only in individual crystals.
Crystal System is orthorhombic; 2/m 2/m 2/m
Crystal Habits include crusts and acicular crystals formed as efflorescence on cave and mine walls. Also as a constituent in arid climate soils. Rarely forms crystals of any appreciable size but some clusters of hexagonal shaped twinned crystals are known.
Cleavage is good in two directions (prismatic).
Fracture is uneven.
Hardness is 2.
Specific Gravity is approximately 2.1 (well below average)
Streak is white.
Other Characteristics: Easily soluble in water, gives a violet flame in a flame test (potassium), is slightly sectile and is nondeliquescent.
Associated Minerals calcite, dolomite and certain minerals in various arid region soils.
Notable Occurrences include the Persian Gulf states, India; Russia; Italy; Spain; northern Chile; New Mexico, Kentucky and Tennessee, USA; Egypt and Bolivia.
Best Field Indicators are crystal habit if visible, solubility in water, nondeliquescent and violet flame test.