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Potassium iodide

Related subjects: Chemical compounds

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Potassium iodide
CAS number 7681-11-0
RTECS number TT2975000
Molecular formula KI
Molar mass 166.00 g/mol
Appearance white crystalline solid
Density 3.13 g/cm3, solid
Melting point

681 °C (954 K)

Boiling point

1330 °C (1603 K)

Solubility in water 128 g/100 ml (6 °C)
MSDS External MSDS
R-phrases R36, R38, R42- R43, R61
S-phrases S26, S36- S37, S39, S45
Main hazards Slightly hazardous
NFPA 704
NFPA 704.svg
Related compounds
Other anions potassium bromide
potassium chloride
Other cations lithium iodide
sodium iodide
rubidium iodide
caesium iodide
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Infobox references

Potassium iodide is a white crystalline salt with chemical formula KI, used in photography and radiation treatment. It finds widespread application as an iodide source because it is less hygroscopic than sodium iodide, making it easier to work with. KI can turn yellow upon heating in air or upon standing in moist air for long periods, because of oxidation of the iodide to iodine.

Chemical properties

Potassium iodide behaves as a simple ionic salt, K+I. Since the iodide ion is a mild reducing agent, I is easily oxidised to I2 by powerful oxidising agents such as chlorine:

2 KI( aq) + Cl2(aq) → 2 KCl + I2(aq)

Even air will oxidize iodide as evidenced by the observation of a purple extract when KI is rinsed with dichloromethane. Under acidic conditions, KI is oxidised even more easily, due to the formation of hydroiodic acid (HI), which is a powerful reducing agent.

KI forms I3 when combined with elemental iodine.

KI(aq) + I2(s) → KI3(aq)

Unlike I2, I3 salts can be highly water-soluble. I2 and I3 have virtually identical redox potentials (0.535 and 0.536 V vs NHE, respectively), i.e. they are both mild oxidants relative to H2. Therefore, this reaction allows the iodine to be used in aqueous solutions for redox titrations.

Potassium iodide also serves in some organic reactions as a source of iodide ion (see "uses" below).

Physical Properties

It occurs as odourless, colourless, transparent or somewhat opaque crystals or white granular powder. It is slightly hygroscopic, the taste is saline and slightly bitter. On long exposure to air, it becomes yellow due to the liberation of iodine and small quantities of iodate may be formed.


Potassium iodide is used in photography, in the preparation of silver(I) iodide for high speed photographic film:

KI( aq) + AgNO3( aq) → AgI(s) + KNO3( aq)

Potassium iodide is also added to table salt in small quantities to make it "iodized". In a saturated solution, it is also used as an expectorant to treat lung congestion.

KI is often used as a source of iodide ion in organic synthesis. A useful application is in the preparation of aryl iodides from arenediazonium salts. For example:

KI Sandmeyer.png

Saturated solution of potassium iodide is also used as treatment for sporotrichosis, a fungal infection.

In medical use, it can also serve as an antiseptic for people suffering from sore throat. The dose is 0.5 g-1.0 g in 100 mL, with the accompany of iodine (0.5 g-1.0 g in 100 mL).

KI is also used as a fluorescence quenching agent in biomedical research because of collisional quenching by its iodide ion.

In aqueous solution with elemental iodine, it acts as a gold etchant and will attack and dissolve gold surfaces.

Radiation protection

Potassium iodide may also be used to protect the thyroid from radioactive iodine in the event of an accident or attack at a nuclear power plant, or other nuclear attack, especially where a nuclear reactor is breached and the volatile radionuclides, which contain significant amount of 131I, are released into the environment. Radioiodine is a particularly dangerous radionuclide because the body concentrates it in the thyroid gland. Potassium iodide cannot protect against other causes of radiation poisoning, however, nor can it provide any degree of protection against a dirty bomb unless the bomb happens to contain a significant amount of radioactive iodine. In case of a nuclear emergency, iodine used for the cleaning of wounds should not be ingested. It is a poison.

An unopened box of Potassium iodate tablets, produced and distributed to the population of the Republic of Ireland in case of a terror attack on the Sellafield nuclear power station in the United Kingdom.
Recommended Dosage for Radiological Emergencies involving radioactive iodine
Age KI in mg KIO3 in mg
Over 12 years old 130 170
3 - 12 years old 65 85
1 - 36 months old 32 42
< 1 month old 16 21

In January 2008, John Marburger, the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the United States, stated that potassium iodide pills "offer negligible additional protection" against radiation exposure, and that in the event of a nuclear radiation emergency, efforts would be better spent on evacuation and distribution of safe food.

See fission products and the external links for more details.


Mild irritant, wear gloves. Chronic overexposure can have adverse effects on the thyroid.

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