Place of Origin:
100% water soluble noncaking white potassium nitrate powder used as fertilizer in
POTASSIUM NITRATE is a white to dirty gray crystalline solid. Water soluble.
Noncombustible, but accelerates the burning of combustible materials. If large
quantities are involved in fire or the combustible material is finely divided an explosion
may result. May explode under prolonged exposure to heat or fire. Toxic oxides of
nitrogen are produced in fires. Used in solid propellants, explosives, fertilizers.
►History of production
From mineral sources
The earliest known complete purification process for potassium nitrate was
outlined in 1270 by the chemist and engineer Hasan al-Rammah of Syria in his
book al-Furusiyya wa al-Manasib al-Harbiyya (The Book of Military Horsemanship
and Ingenious War Devices). In this book, al-Rammah describes first the
purification of barud (crude saltpeter mineral) by boiling it with minimal water and
using only the hot solution, then the use of potassium carbonate (in the form of
wood ashes) to remove calcium and magnesium by precipitation of their
carbonates from this solution, leaving a solution of purified potassium nitrate, which
could then be dried. This was used for the manufacture of gunpowder and
explosive devices. The terminology used by al-Rammah indicated a Chinese origin
for the gunpowder weapons about which he wrote.
At least as far back as 1845, Chilean saltpeter deposits were exploited in Chile and
A major natural source of potassium nitrate was the deposits crystallizing from
cave walls and the accumulations of bat guano in caves. Extraction is
accomplished by immersing the guano in water for a day, filtering, and harvesting
the crystals in the filtered water. Traditionally, guano was the source used in Laos
for the manufacture of gunpowder for Bang Fai rockets.
Perhaps the most exhaustive discussion of the production of this material is the
1862 LeConte text.He was writing with the express purpose of increasing
production in the Confederate States to support their needs during the American
Civil War. Since he was calling for the assistance of rural farming communities, the
descriptions and instructions are both simple and explicit. He details the "French
Method", along with several variations, as well as a "Swiss method". N.B. Many
references have been made to a method using only straw and urine, but there is no
such method in this work.
Niter-beds are prepared by mixing manure with either mortar or wood ashes,
common earth and organic materials such as straw to give porosity to a compost
pile typically 4 feet (1.2 m) high, 6 feet (1.8 m) wide, and 15 feet (4.6 m) long.The
heap was usually under a cover from the rain, kept moist with urine, turned often to
accelerate the decomposition, then finally leached with water after approximately
one year, to remove the soluble calcium nitrate which was then converted to
potassium nitrate by filtering through potash.
LeConte describes a process using only urine and not dung, referring to it as the
Swiss method. Urine is collected directly, in a sandpit under a stable. The sand
itself is dug out and leached for nitrates which were then converted to potassium
nitrate using potash, as above.
From nitric acid
From 1903 until the World War I era, potassium nitrate for black powder and
fertilizer was produced on an industrial scale from nitric acid produced using the
Birkeland–Eyde process, which used an electric arc to oxidize nitrogen from the air.
During World War I the newly industrialized Haber process (1913) was combined
with the Ostwald process after 1915, allowing Germany to produce nitric acid for
the war after being cut off from its supplies of mineral sodium nitrates from Chile.
Potassium nitrate is used in fertilizers as a source of nitrogen and potassium –
two of the macronutrients for plants. When used by itself, it has an NPK rating of
25/50KG plastic pp bag or customized
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