Potassium hydroxide (KOH) is a liquid inorganic compound also known as caustic potash. Reacting sodium hydroxide with impure potassium gives KOH in its pure form. With the chemical formula KOH, potassium hydroxide is one of the compounds is called lye. As measured on the pH scale it has very high alkalinity. Due to its hygroscopic nature it becomes very tacky in air, hence it is sold as solid translucent pellets. When dissolved in water it dissipates the excess amount of heat thus making the reaction exothermic. KOH is a strong base has its use in niche applications. Potassium hydroxide is included in cleaning products, and has uses in industry and in medical diagnostics. It also has its role as an alternative health product.
Its main applications lie in the manufacture of soaps, petroleum refining, fertilizer industries among others. Many potassium salts like permanganates, carbonates, phosphates are prepared by neutralization reactions involving KOH. Potassium hydroxide is used as a direct intermediate for the manufacture of a huge range of chemicals which include potassium cyanide, aluminate, formate, fluosilicate, borohydride, bromated, bromide, gluconate, manganate, oleate, titanate, laurate etc.
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Other areas of its application include electroplating, herbicides, greases, catalysts, medicines and alkaline electrolyte batteries. Some dermatologists use KOH to diagnose fungal infections in skin, hair and nails. If misused potassium can have a number of ill effects including physical damage to the eyes, skin etc. Environmental damage to aquatic life is caused if KOH is disposed off in water bodies.
NaOH is another chemical which has almost similar properties to KOH. They are caustic, corrosive and highly hazardous. Both chemicals are used interchangeably for a number of applications although NAOH is preferred in industries due to its low cost and is widely used. However, KOH finds its use in domestic and household applications. Its usage is also found in petroleum and natural gas refining for the removal of organic acids and sulphur compounds.
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The key factor that drives the market growth of KOH is its use in household products and in fertilizers. The world is facing ever-increasing population and hence there is continuous use of household products, which is one of the main drivers of the KOH market. Another driving factor is its use in fertilizers .With the growing demand for food, the fertilizer market is expanding causing the growth in the KOH market as well. The hazardous effects of KOH on health and also on the environment are major restraining factors for its market.
The key segments for the KOH industry are Europe, Asia Pacific, North America and Rest of the World (RoW). Asia Pacific accounts for more than half of the potassium hydroxide demand and the trend is expected to continue over the next few years. India and China are one of the largest economies in terms of population and are expected to dominate the market in terms of demand. North America follows Asia Pacific as the second largest user of KOH, followed by Europe and then RoW. Emerging economies in the rest of the world segment are expected to offer huge growth opportunities especially in Latin American countries .Potassium hydroxide demand in Russia and Eastern European region will also foresee huge demand during the forecast period.
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Key companies that manufacture potassium hydroxide include
- The Mosaic Company
- Armand Products
- ICL Fertilizers
- Occidental Chemical Cooperation
- Potash Corp.
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