Potassium Iodide: Applications & Uses, and Warnings

What Is Potassium Iodide?

Potassium Iodide is an inorganic chemical compound with the formula KI. It is a metal halide made of potassium and iodide and exhibits the properties of protecting thyroid, and also being popularly used in treating asthma and chronic bronchitis as an expectorant. It forms the main source of dietary iodine and its intake is usually through potassium iodide tablets, but it is ingested through water and food.

The increased use of potassium iodide in industrial applications and its growing popularity as a generic medicine has led to increasing in the demand/supply of the chemical across the globe. The market is expected to reach $1.2 billion by 2027 from the current $771.6 million, growing at a CAGR of 6.1%. The scope of potassium iodide looks quite promising and the demand/supply is expected not to be affected at least till the next decade.

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Chemical properties of potassium iodide

Potassium iodide appears as a colorless or white cubic crystals or granules with a density of 3.12 g/cm3 and molecular weight of 166.0028 g/mol. The boiling point and melting point of the compound are 1,330 0C and 681 0C respectively. The compound is stable and it’s recommended to store it away from light and moisture.

Chemical properties include:

 1. Upon exposure to bright light, the compound undergoes photochemical decomposition releasing free iodine in trace quantity. During this reaction, the colorless/white cubes/granules turn yellowish.

2. When an oxidizing agent is introduced, potassium iodide oxidizes into an iodine molecule.

2KI           + Cl2   → 2 KCl + I2

Potassium   Chlorine        Potassium  

Iodide                                 Chlorine

This compound is used as an iodide source in several organic synthesis reactions.

3. The old and impure samples of potassium iodide are yellow due to slow oxidation of the salt to potassium carbonate and elemental iodine.

4 KI    + 2 CO2 + O2 → 2 K2CO3 + 2 I2

Potassium                                 Potassium      Iodine

Iodide                                         Carbonate

How is Potassium Iodide made?

Potassium iodide is prepared by various methods; the most common methods include:

1. Potassium iodide is prepared by the reaction iodine with a hot solution of potassium hydroxide. The method is used to prepare a saturated solution of 100 grams of iodine to 100 ml of water. It is popularly added to water, milk, or fruit juice.

I2     + 2KOH  à KI + KIO + H2O

Iodine  Potassium     Potassium     

              Hydroxide     Iodide

2. Potassium iodide can be prepared by the reacting a potassium base with hydroiodic acid.

HI          + KHCO3 → KI + H2O (l) + CO2(g)

hydroiodic  Potassium             Potassium     

acid              Bicarbonate          Iodide

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Medical uses of Potassium Iodide

The use of potassium iodide in medicinal applications can be dated back to 1820. Today, it is used in a wide range of medicinal and pharmaceutical applications, some of them includes:

  • It is used as a medication to treat hyperthyroidism.
  • It is used during radioactive surgery emergencies to protect the thyroid gland from possible radiation injuries.
  • It is used as an expectorant to dilute mucus and loosens congestion in the chest and throat.
  • It is used in patients with chronic breathing problems such as asthma or chronic bronchitis to give relief from thick mucus in the respiratory tract.
  • It is used to treat sporotrichosis, a fungal infection on the skin. It is widely used for this purpose for its effectiveness and affordability.
  • It is used in the treatment of inflammatory skin conditions such as erythema nodosum, sweet disease, Bechet disease, nodular vasculitis, and erythema multiforme. These conditions are evident with skin inflammation and the formation of painful bumps with symptoms of fever, joint pain, and local tenderness. Potassium iodide is found to treat the symptoms within 24-48 hours, while the lesion is cleared within 10-14 days.
  • It is used in the treatment of recalcitrant pyoderma gangrenosum, a painful, non-infectious, ulcer on the skin. A significant improvement is seen within two months from the treatment, while the condition is completely cleared within 4 months.
  • It is used in the treatment of granulomatosis with polyangiitis, a condition of inflammation of the blood vessels.
  • It was earlier used in the treatment of syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease in human beings.

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Applications of Potassium Iodide

Potassium iodide is used in a wide range of industrial applications which include:

  • It is used in various medical applications
  • It is used as nutritional supplements in human diet
  • It is used in the preparation of silver iodide, a chemical used in photography
  • It forms a major component in industrial and household cleaning agents
  • It is used in the preparation of some disinfectants
  • It is used in as a component in the electrolyte of dye sensitized solar cells
  • It is used in the synthesis of organic and inorganic chemicals

Is Potassium Iodide safe to touch?

It is not safe to touch potassium iodide or any other chemical in the laboratory with bare hands, as it may cause unexpected damage. By touching potassium iodide, your skin may develop a temporary, mild irritation which may also cause allergic contact dermatitis in extreme cases. In case of accidental exposure, wash off the exposed skin with soap and plenty of cold water; visit a doctor if the irritation persists.

It is recommended and advised to wear the necessary protective equipment (PPE) while working with potassium iodide. Ensure to avoid any contact of the chemical with eyes, skin, or clothes. In case of leakage or spills, do not touch the spilled material or container without any PPE. Always use the chemical in a well-ventilated space and follow good and safe laboratory practice.

It is to be noted that following safety measures while disposing of the chemical is a crucial step. Always dispose of the waste in accordance with the local, state, or federal regulations.

Where to buy Potassium Iodide?

Potassium iodide tablets as a dietary supplement, for promoting hormonal balance, or for any other medical use is available in any drug store across the country which can be brought with a valid medical prescription. It can also be purchased in bulk for industrial applications from any local manufacturer, supplier, or third- party dealer. This trend is in place for many decades now and dominates the way people/companies buy or sell chemicals. With the huge number of people still preferring this method of chemical purchase, the trend will stay in the Indian chemical industry for some more time. The growing technological advancement across various sectors has led to the introduction of digitization in the chemical industry too; which has changed the course of the chemical procurement process. With the digital wave hitting the chemical industry, the entire chemical procurement process has been eased and made it easy for companies/research institutions to buy or sell chemicals.

Digital platforms like Carbanio.com are reshaping the way we buy and sell chemicals. The entire process of finding the right purity chemicals in the required quantity, finding a trustworthy supplier, negotiating the price, spending huge transportation costs, while waiting endlessly for the chemical to reach you, is all eased. With Carbanio, all these issues are resolved; all you have to do is look for the required chemical from the list of verified suppliers near your location, place an order, make a secured online payment, and wait for the chemical to reach you within the estimated time. This new chemical procurement process has soon become the chemical buyers’ favorite and is expected to become the prominent method of buying chemicals in the future.