Potassium hydroxide, also commonly called caustic potash, is produced in the United States by the electrolysis of potassium chloride brine in electrolytic cells. When potassium chloride brine is fed to the electrolytic cell, the process yields a solution of potassium hydroxide and co-products of chlorine and hydrogen. ERCO Worldwide produces high purity 45-and 50-weight percent potassium hydroxide solution in Port Edwards, Wisconsin.
Production of Potassium Carbonate
Potassium hydroxide, or caustic potash, is used in a wide variety of industrial applications. The major uses are in the production of potassium carbonate, potassium phosphates, liquid fertilizers, and potassium soaps and detergents. The largest single use is in the production of potassium carbonate, which is used primarily in the manufacture of specialty glasses, including television tubes. Other applications of potassium carbonate include food, soaps, dyes and pigments, boiler compounds, electroplating baths, extraction of carbon dioxide from the industrial gas streams, dehydrating agents, titanium enamels, vat dyeing and textile printing, fire extinguishing powders, and use as a chemical intermediate for the production of several potassium chemicals including potassium acetate, bicarbonate, bisulfite, ferrocyanide, fluoride, silicate, and others.
Production of Potassium Phosphates
The phosphates, which have buffering chelating and cleaning effects similar to sodium phosphates, are used in applications where their excellent solubility is of value, and find markets primarily as builders in industrial detergents and cleaners, and in water treatment chemicals. Potassium phosphates are also used in solubilized casein products and other food applications, antifreezes and specialty liquid fertilizers.
Production of Fertilizers
Potassium hydroxide is used in the production of agricultural-grade fertilizers. These fertilizers can be used as a source of potassium (one of three major plant foods) for crops that are sensitive to chloride ions.
Production of Soaps
Potassium soaps include those made from coconut oil fatty acid, vegetable oil, tall oil and toluene sulfonic acid.
Other end uses for potassium hydroxide include electroplating, herbicides, greases, catalysts, oxidizers, medicines, and alkaline-electrolytic batteries. Potassium hydroxide is used as a direct intermediate for several potassium chemicals, including potassium cyanide, aluminate, formate, fluosilicate, borohydride, bromate, bromide, gluconate, laurate, manganate, oleate, and titanate.