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Naturally occurring mineral composed of Potassium nitrate. Also known as saltpeter, niter has thin, shiny translucent crystals. It usually occurs as Efflorescence on the surface of soils in arid regions. Large quantities of niter have been found in Spain, Italy, Egypt, Arabia, India, Russia, and the United States. Niter was used during the Civil War as a component in Gunpowder. It is now used in the manufacture of Glass, matches, explosives, and fertilizers.

Synonyms and Related Terms

potassium nitrate; saltpetre; saltpeter; nitrate of potash; nitre (Br., Fr.); kaliumnitrat (Dan., Deut.); Kalisalpeter (Deut.); salpêtre (Fr.); salpêtre du Chili (Fr.); nitrato di potassio (It.); kaliumnitraat (Ned.); azotan(V) potasu (Pol.);




  • Can be mixed with sulfur and charcoal to form gunpowder.
  • Ingestion can cause nausea and irritation

Physical and Chemical Properties

Soluble in water (38 g in 100 g)

Composition KNO3
CAS 7757-79-1
Melting Point 334 C
Density 2.1 g/ml
Molecular Weight 101.1
Boiling Point 400 C (dec)

Resources and Citations

  • R. Mayer, The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques, Viking Press, New York, 1981
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 632
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • Susan E. Schur, Conservation Terminology: A review of Past & Current Nomenclature of Materials, Technology and Conservation, Spring (p.34-39); Summer (p.35-38); Fall (p.25-36), 1985
  • Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
  • Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia, Douglas M. Considine (ed.), Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1976
  • The Merck Index, Martha Windholz (ed.), Merck Research Labs, Rahway NJ, 10th edition, 1983 Comment: entry 7815

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