Did You Know?
Heating potassium chlorate is an inexpensive way to generate oxygen. College laboratories often heat this compound along with a catalyst to produce oxygen.

Potassium chlorate, a white crystalline powder, is a chlorine-based compound, primarily used for industrial purposes. A laboratory preparation of this compound involves treating milk of lime with chlorine, followed by addition of potassium chloride. This compound is most sought after for its oxidizing properties and promoting blooming of longan trees. Let's look at the important uses of this crystalline compound.

Employed in Fireworks

The firecracker industry heavily depends on potassium chlorate for making small explosives. Potassium chlorate displays oxidizing properties, which play a key role in burning the firecracker at a fast rate. When a firework is ignited, potassium chlorate releases oxygen enough to maintain the chemical reaction of burning the explosive. Also, a matchstick ignites quickly because of the presence of potassium chlorate on the outer surface of the match head. Smoke grenades that are commonly used for signaling purposes also contain oxidizers like potassium chlorate.

As a Disinfectant

Although potassium chlorate does provide a disinfectant effect, it is mainly used in making chlorine dioxide―a powerful disinfectant that works best even at lower concentrations. Chlorine dioxide is often added to drinking water for the elimination of disease-causing bacteria, viruses, protozoa and even odor-causing compounds. In the United States, drinking water is often treated with chlorine dioxide to disinfect it completely.

As Pesticides

Being a disinfectant, potassium chlorate can be helpful in pest management in agricultural settings. The United States Environmental Protection Agency considers potassium chlorate as an inert ingredient in registered pesticide products.

Promotes Flowering

Potassium chlorate can help in the cultivation of dormant trees. Longan trees, known for their delicious fruits, do show a noticeable yield of fruits when treated with potassium chlorate. You need to simply spray the compound on the tree just once to facilitate flowering and fruiting as they mature. So, despite being an off-season, it facilitates the growth from flowering to fruit maturity in longan trees. In one study carried out by the Hawaiian Department of Agriculture, spraying potassium chloride at the base of longan trees showed a 75% increase in off-season flowering. Another group of longan trees that were treated with 250-500 g of potassium chlorate showed a better fruit yield.

Soil drenching with potassium chlorate is especially useful in places like Florida where the weather hinders the flowering potential of longan trees. Even in countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, and Thailand, the compound is sprayed to stimulate off-season production of longan fruits.

A great deal of caution has to be exercised while using potassium chlorate. As this compound is a powerful irritant, one should never touch or inhale this chemical. Skin irritation and sore throat are some of the side effects of improper handling of potassium chlorate. So, whenever you use it, make sure to wear a breathing mask, protective goggles, and PVC gloves.