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KNaK or Nak is an alloy of the alkali metals sodium (Na, atomic number 11) and potassium (K, atomic number 19). It is normally liquid at room temperature. The mixture is used as a heat exchange fluid and in chemical reactions that involve unstable intermediates. It reacts violently with certain extinguishing agents, such as water and carbon tetrachloride. It is a dangerous substance when inhaled, and can cause severe burns on contact with skin or eyes.
The alloy can be prepared by treating a quantity of the sodium lead alloy with molten potassium hydroxide or with a solution made from dehydrating potassium hydroxide with sodium. The mixture is then reacted in successive vessels with molten hydroxides of increasing concentrations until it is treated in the final vessel with the eutectic mixture of 77% potassium and 23% sodium by weight. This produces the ternary Na/K alloy which is then pumped into molds.
The alloy should be kept in a dry area to avoid oxidation. It is pyrophoric, and can ignite spontaneously. It is therefore ideally stored under an inert gas, such as dry nitrogen or argon. It is also a hazard to handle, as it may give off hydrogen on exposure to moisture which, if inhaled, can cause chemical pneumonitis. The product is corrosive and can irritate the respiratory tract, eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract. It can also be harmful if swallowed, and may result in severe burns. Symptoms include vomiting, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.