High purity KCl nanoflowers

Potassium chloride (KCl) is one of the most useful potassium salts, naturally existing as ore. The appearance of this salt is as pink or white crystals, and applications of potassium chloride salts include agriculture, drilling, medication and dietary. Furthermore, potassium chloride salt is also the most commonly used potassium salt. This is a metal halide with essential use as a source of electrolyte. One of the most important uses of potassium chloride salts are electrolytes molds, buffer solutions, preparation and production of fertilizer, preparation and production of drilling, manufacture of explosives, production of antifreeze and ice breaker, laboratory applications, paper products, sodium chloride substitute, supply of construction industry materials, urban water softener, metal plating and coating colours (coating) industry. Due to the importance of potassium chloride salt, more study of the structure, synthesis and characterization should be performed.

Regarding different structures; flower-like particles have not been reported as frequently, as, for example, nanowires or nanotubes. However, in the last decade the number of appearances in the literature has increased. In recent years, a series of various nano-flower and flower-like structures have been obtained, frequently together or in equilibrium with other nano forms, depending on reaction conditions. Current and possible applications of nano flowers or flower-like particle include optoelectronics devices or sensors, in catalysis, and solar cells. The synthesis of nano flowers or flower-like for various groups of compounds, obtained thus far is usually complex [1].

We have synthesized and characterized potassium chloride with a flower-like structure for the first time. It should be noted that the purity of final product is more than ninety nine percent and advantages of this synthesis method are low cost, facile synthesis, and no requirement for scarce and high cost materials.

To synthesize the structure shown on this issue’s cover, we mixed ten grams potassium chloride (KCl) salt and lithium chloride (LiCl) with a mol ratio of one and half to one by a mortar. Because lithium salts are sensitive to moisture, we performed this step inside a glove box. After complete and uniform mixing of lithium salts, we added seventy-five hundredths gram tin chloride (SnCl2) to the compound. As in the previous step, this step was performed inside a glovebox, because of sensitivity of tin chloride to moisture. At the next step, the resulting product was placed inside a vacuum furnace, under Argon atmosphere and the temperature was raised to four hundred degrees Celsius at a heating rate of three degrees per minute for five hours. After spontaneous cooling of the product at room temperature, we washed the final product using a three step process, using two molar hydrochloric acid at sixty degrees Celsius, and a two step process with methanol, to complete the elimination of lithium chloride salt. It should be noted that water should not be used during the washing process, because it causes dissolution of potassium chloride. At the final step, we placed the final product inside the vacuum furnace (oven) at a temperature of eighty degrees Celsius for twenty four hours and after spontaneous cooling at room temperature, prepared for the material for imaging; this preparation includes plating gold metal on the sample by sputtering to get clearer or better images.

For the characterization phase of product, we performed microscopic imaging and elemental analysis via field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM). The image taken indicates a rather symmetrical and flower-like structure, and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy analysis, revealed a purity of over ninety nine percent, of potassium and chlorine without presence of additional products (with the raw materials that are tin chloride and lithium chloride).

The successful synthesis of this sample with high purity and symmetric structure was obtained following the optimization of test and laboratory conditions, including factors like using lithium chloride as molten salt substrate for uniform heat transfer, tin chloride as the reducing agent that had the main role and argon gas inside the glove box and furnace preventing oxidation of the raw materials and final products.

We hope that this structure with high purity and good morphology, like other flower-like structures, will prove useful in a lot of applications.

Further reading

[1] B.I. Kharisov

Recent Patents Nanotechnol., 2 (3) (2008), pp. 190-200

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DOI: 10.1016/j.mattod.2020.05.001