Potassium Dichromate: Definition, Formula & Uses

Potassium Dichromate: Definition, Formula & Uses
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  • 0:00 What Is Potassium Dichromate?
  • 2:32 Molecular Structure & Formula
  • 3:27 Different Uses of…
  • 4:08 Potassium Dichromate's…
  • 5:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Reid

Danielle has taught middle school science and has a doctorate degree in Environmental Health

Did you know another name for potassium dichromate is hexavalent chromium? In this lesson, we will learn why potassium dichromate has a second name, understand its formula, and discover where it is used.

What Is Potassium Dichromate?

It's well known that the chemical element potassium is very important for a wide variety of biological functions in the human body. However, the chemical compound potassium dichromate is quite the opposite - it is very harmful to our health. Potassium dichromate is a chemical compound typically used as an inorganic chemical reagent for industrial and laboratory processes. As we will see, this chemical is used to produce an array of products ranging from shoe polishes and glues to paints and waxes.

Potassium dichromate in solid form
potassium dichromate

Here you can see potassium dichromate in its solid form. Looking at the image, can you guess a physical property of this chemical compound? Yes, that's correct! The reddish-orange color is a physical property of potassium dichromate. Known to be odorless, its boiling point is 500 degrees Celsius. Potassium dichromate has a melting point of 398 degrees Celsius and molecular weight of 294.18 grams per mole.

Stable under normal temperature and pressure, potassium dichromate is in no way friends with chemicals that are reducing agents. This is due to the fact that potassium dichromate is a strong oxidizer. A strong oxidizer is a compound that can increase the combustible nature of other materials using oxygen. Hence, potassium dichromate must stay far away from these reducing agents and other incompatible materials. Otherwise, you may have one explosive situation to deal with.

Potassium dichromate can be classified as a hexavalent chromium compound due to its oxidation state. Oxidation state is a calculated number that indicates how many electrons are lost or gained in the atom of a compound. If the oxidation state is positive, there was a loss of electrons. Negative oxidation states indicate a gain of electrons for a particular atom. Hexavalent chromium compounds, such as potassium dichromate, contain the element chromium in its oxidation state of 6+.

Molecular Structure and Formula

The molecular formula for potassium dichromate is K2Cr2O7. Be careful not to confuse potassium dichromate with its cousin potassium chromate, which has the molecular formula K2CrO4. Here is the molecular structure of potassium dichromate:

Molecular structure of potassium dichromate
potassium dichromate

Did you spot the potassium and dichromate ions in the structure? Surely you did, but as a quick review, an ion is a molecule (or atom) that carries a negative or positive charge. Unlike some compounds, potassium dichromate is a polyatomic ion. This means it's made from two or more molecules (or atoms) that carry a charge. Potassium carries a positive charge while dichromate has a negative charge.

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