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Neutral potassium atoms have 19 electrons, one more than the extremely stable configuration of the noble gas argon.
Because of this and its low first ionization energy of 418.8 k J/mol, the potassium atom is much more likely to lose the last electron and acquire a positive charge than to gain one and acquire a negative charge (though negatively charged alkalide This process requires so little energy that potassium is readily oxidized by atmospheric oxygen.
It is a soft solid with a low melting point, and can be easily cut with a knife.
Freshly cut potassium is silvery in appearance, but it begins to tarnish toward gray immediately on exposure to air.
The reaction of potassium with water is dangerous because of its violent exothermic character and the production of hydrogen gas.Fresh fruits and vegetables are good dietary sources of potassium.The body responds to the influx of dietary potassium, which raises serum potassium levels, with a shift of potassium from outside to inside cells and an increase in potassium excretion by the kidneys.Hydrogen reacts again with atmospheric oxygen, producing water, which reacts with the remaining potassium.This reaction requires only traces of water; because of this, potassium and the liquid sodium-potassium (Na K) alloy are potent desiccants that can be used to dry solvents prior to distillation.