Did You Know?
Potassium perchlorate is a highly stable compound as compared to potassium chlorate, which is extremely reactive.
Had it not been for the discovery of potassium perchlorate, it would have been difficult for the fireworks industry to make crackers that burst with a loud noise and create a flash of bright light. The oxidizing property of this colorless, crystalline, solid compound is utilized to the fullest by the pyrotechnic industry to make crackers that create a spectacular illumination of light. Potassium perchlorate, characterized as an organic salt, has other uses as well, some of which are discussed in this Buzzle write-up below:
✦ As an Antithyroid Agent
Potassium perchlorate displays antithyroid properties and may be recommended in the treatment of hyperthyroidism, a condition that is typically marked by excess production of thyroid hormones. It is not a commonly prescribed drug, and moreover, the patient is advised to take this compound in conjunction with other antithyroid agents. Potassium perchlorate was the first line of treatment in the period between 1950s and early 1960s, but with the introduction of more effective drugs like methimazole in the United States, use of potassium perchlorate for hyperthyroidism has now become relatively uncommon.
✦ In Explosives and Fireworks
Its oxidizing properties benefit in making explosives and firecrackers. The bright flash that we see after a firecracker explodes is due to the presence of flash powder that primarily consists of oxidizer (potassium perchlorate) and metallic fuel (aluminum powder). This flash composition is a quick-burning mixture that creates an illumination when it bursts. It is this compound that makes the firecracker go bang. The flares produced after the cracker ignites is because of these flash compositions. Fireworks such as sparklers also contain this compound in their flash powder, which provides a twinkling effect when they are ignited.
✦ Used in Rocket Fuel
The propellants used in rockets are a mix of fuel and an oxidizer like potassium perchlorate. The oxidizer promotes rapid burning of the mixture, which exerts the much-needed thrust to launch the rocket in space. Moreover, adding it to the propellant also helps improve fuel efficiency.
✦ In Percussion Cap Guns
Percussion cap, a firing mechanism of guns and pistols, uses potassium perchlorate to ignite the gunpowder and fire the bullet. The percussion cap, a metal container, has a primer (flammable mixture) that ignites the propellant to fire the bullet. Often, potassium perchlorate is added so that the mixture burns rapidly, which in turn detonates the propellant and fires the shell. Also, primers in high-end explosives are stuffed with substantial amount of potassium perchlorate so that the reaction is rapid and creates a significant impact after explosion.