Free «Chemistry» Essay Sample


Potassium with an atomic number of 19 and with the symbol K was discovered by English scientist, Sir Humphrey Davy, in 1807.  Potassium has an atomic weight of about 39 grams and its name is originated from English potash pot ashes. Seventeen (17) potassium isotopes have been documented. Natural potassium comprises three isotopes that include potassium with an atomic weight of 40 grams and a radioactive isotope having a half life of roughly 1.28 x 109 years (Helmenstine, 2012).

Potassium has various physical and chemical characteristics. It has a boiling point of 760 °C and a melting point of 63.25°C. It has a valence of 1. Potassium is very reactive as an electropositive metal. It ranks as the second on light weight matters in metals after Lithium. Additionally, potassium is a silvery soft material and can be easily cur using a knife. The metal should be kept in a mineral oil like kerosene because it oxidizes readily in air. It can catch fire abruptly when it has exposure to water. Potassium decomposes in water to evolve hydrogen potassium. Potassium salts have violet color flames.

Potash has a very wide use as a fertilizer. Potassium that is found in many soils is an element that is very useful for the growth of plants. Potassium is mixed with sodium to form a useful alloy in heat transfer processes. Moreover, potassium salts have realized a lot of commercial applications. Potassium happens to be the 7th most plenty element on the surface of the earth. It comprises 2.4% of the crust of the earth. Potassium cannot be found naturally free. It was the first metal that was isolated through an electrolysis process from caustic potash (KOH) by Davy in 1807. Potassium can also be produced thermally through potassium compound reduction of Carbon, silicon, Sodium and Calcium Carbide. Generally, potassium is an alkali metal with a density of 0.856 g/cc.

Friedrich Woehler

Friedrich Woehler is a chemist who accidentally synthesized urea in 1828 from inorganic materials. He proved that substances created through living things can be produced again with non-living substances. It was until 1828 when it was realized that organic substances could only form through the assistance of the “crucial force” that is available in plants and animals (Zoltan, 1996). The synthesis of urea was an important discovery that led to Woehler synthesis. Woehler synthesis is the conversion of urea from ammonium cyanate in a chemical reaction.

This major discovery was considered the start of contemporary organic chemistry. Even though Woehler reaction deals with the conversion of ammonium cyanate, the salt only is available in an unstable intermediate. Woehler showed then reaction in his initial publication with various sets of reactants, such as a mixture of ammonia and cyanic acid, a mixture of ammonium chloride and silver cyanate, a mixture of ammonia and lead cyanate, and lastly from a mixture of cyanate ammonia and mercury cyanate.

The reaction can be shown starting with ammonium chloride and potassium cyanate solutions which are combined, heated and cooled. There is also an additional proof of the chemical change obtained through the addition of oxalic acid solution which forms a white precipitate of urea oxalate. On the other hand, the reaction can be conducted with ammonia and lead cyanate. The real reaction which is occurring is a kind of double displacement reaction to produce ammonium cyanate as shown below:

Ammonium cyanate further decomposes to cyanic acid and ammonia which later reacts to yield urea in nucleophilic addition and later tautomeric isomerization. See below 


There are quite a number of different uses of nuclear energy or radioactivity other than nuclear power plants and bombs. Man-made radiation has found significant application in the day to day life of human beings. For one, radioactivity has been used in smoke detectors. The Americium-241 isotope is applied in smoke detectors. This isotope emits alpha-particles at certain energies of up to 5.4 MeV. The energetic alpha particles have been utilized to ionize air. At the moment when air is ionized, a small current will run through it. Finally, when smoke gets into a chamber where the smoke detectors are installed, then the current encounters an increase in resistance and the circuit causes the installed alarm to sound.

Radioactivity has also found a major application in the medical world. Radioactive isotopes are mainly used for medical practice and care. Positron emitters are normally introduced into the human body in which the annihilation of positron reactions are consequently monitored through multifaceted detections systems that can restructure intricately expounded images of the human body in a PET scan. Hospitals, dentists and doctors use a number of nuclear procedures and materials to detect, monitor and give treatment to a number of medical conditions and metabolic processes in human beings (, 2010). Radiation (diagnostic x-rays) therapy has found a lot of application in the American medical world. Therefore, medical processes making use of radiation have saved a lot of lives by the way of detecting and treating conditions that range from hyperthyroidism to cancer of the bones.

Institutions of learning have also used radioactivity widely in their course work for experimental research, laboratory demonstrations and a number of applications in health physics. Through radioactivity, scientists can label their substances that go through animals, plants and even our world generally.

Sulfuric acid

Sulfuric acid is a mineral acid that is very corrosive. It is colorless though at times may be slightly yellow viscous liquid soluble in water at various concentrations (Catherine et al., 2008). Sulfuric acid is a very useful chemical commodity and most importantly, a very strong indicator of industrial strength and economic power to nations.

Sulfuric acid has found many applications including its use as fertilizer, specifically superphosphates, ammonium sulfates and ammonium phosphate. On top of that, sulfuric acid has also major application in the chemical industry especially in the production of synthetic resins, petroleum catalysts, detergents, pharmaceuticals, dyestuffs, antifreeze and insecticide. It is also used in different processes and procedures like oil well aluminum reduction, paper sizing, acidizing and water treatment.

Sulfuric importance has also grown to uses linked to pigments like enamels, paints, coated fabrics, printing inks (Catherine et al., 2008). Other applications include the production of cellophane, explosives, viscose textiles and acetate, non-ferrous metals, lubricants and batteries. Sulfuric acid has largely been used in “wet method”, a process used in the production of phosphoric acid to be ultimately used in the making of phosphate fertilizers.

In the manufacturing sector, sulfuric acid has also been exercised as an industrial cleaning agent.  It is largely used by the steelmaking and iron industry to remove rust, scaling and oxidation from rolled billets and sheet before major appliances in the automobiles industry can be sold. Sulfuric acid also acts as a catalyst in different other purposes, mainly in the chemical industry. For instance, it is the main acid catalyst in the cracking of cyclohexanone oxime to produce caprolactam which is used to manufacture nylon. It is also used in order to manufacture hydrochloric acid and the electrolyte in acid-lead batteries.   

Uses of Redox reactions

  1. Fuel cells

Redox reactions have found a major application in the fuel cell, which produce electrical energy through a fuel that is oxidizing like hydrogen and methanol at the side of the anode (Zumdahl and Zumdahl, 2009). A reducing agent, oxygen gas is normally applied at the cathode section. Electrons from the oxidation reaction of hydrogen at the anode are the electrical energy carriers in the electrical circuit. The protons move across an exchange membrane where they converge with the oxygen gas and electrons at the cathode. The by-product in this Redox reaction is water. For the cell to yield enough current to the electrical circuit, catalysts should assist the chemical reactions at the cathode and anode.   

  1. Bleaching agents

Bleaching agents are such compounds that are used to remove a particular color from substances like textiles (Zumdahl and Zumdahl, 2009).  Most of the commercial bleaches present nowadays are mainly oxidizing agents like NaOCl (sodium hypochlorite) or H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide) which is very effective in removing colors from substances through oxidation. The decolorizing effect is a result of their power to remove electrons that are activated through visible light to yield different colors.  The OCl- hypochlorite ion presented in many commercial preparations is made through reaction reduced to hydroxide ions and chloride ions, creating a basic solution as it receives electrons from the colored substance as shown below. 

   OCl- + 2e- + HOH --------> Cl- + 2 OH-


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