Potassium nitrate is a colorless chemical compound is found pure in nature as the mineral saltpeter, or nitre. It is a colorless and odorless crystal or powder when ground up. It is widely used in many fields of human activities.
1. In industry, it is used in glass manufacturing, explosives for mining and civil works, metal treatment, fireworks, and recently, as a means to drastically increase the efficiency of Concentrating Solar Power (CSP). Mixed with sodium nitrate it is a vital storage medium for storing thermal energy in CSP plants
2. In agriculture, it is used as fertilizer, providing two of the major nutrients (potassium and nitrogen) that are vital to plants. Used as a pyrotechnic fumigant, potassium nitrate is an ingredient used in various insecticides, rodenticides and predacides
3. In food industry, it used as a food additive. In the European Union, the compound is referred to as E252; it is also approved for use as a food additive in the USA and Australia and New Zealand(where it is listed under its INS number 252. Both sodium and potassium nitrates and nitrites have been added to meats for inhibition of the germination of C. botulinum endospores, thus prevents botulism from bacterial toxin that may otherwise be produced in certain preserved meat products.
It is also used to maintain the desirable colour of meats and hard cheeses.
4. Dental Care: Potassium nitrate has been found to be able to alleviate the painful feeling of sensitive teeth by shielding exposed nerve endings so that they are not exposed to harsh mouth environments. As such many dental manufacturers are beginning to add potassium nitrate into their dental care products such as toothpaste, mouthwash, dental gel, etc sensitive teeth and gums applications. Rinsing twice daily with a 3% potassium nitrate/sodium fluoride mouthwash or brushing twice daily with a 5% potassium nitrate/sodium fluoride toothpaste can help reduce discomfort arising from dentinal hypersensitivity.
5. Medicinal uses:
5.1 As substitute for Sodium Chloride (table salt) in the management of hypertension.
5.2 Together with Sodium, it is used to restore electrolyte balances in the body, particularly when large quantity of body fluids are lost through excessive sweating or diarrhea/vomiting.