Davy used a new method of isolating elements that he had invented, electrolysis.
In electrolysis, an electric current is passed through a molten (melted) compound.
They tried to think of ways to break these compounds down into their elements.
The first method that Davy tried was to pass an electric current through a water solution of one compound or the other. What Davy did not know was how active the elements potassium and sodium are.
It was not until the eighteenth century that chemists understood the difference between potash (vegetable alkali) and soda ash (mineral alkali).
By the late 1700s, chemists were reasonably sure that both potash and soda ash contained elements they had never seen.
The chemical name for potash is potassium carbonate (K ).
Early humans also knew about a similar substance called mineral alkali. The modern chemical name for soda ash is sodium carbonate (Na ).
We report a method for high-precision potassium isotope measurements that improves by an order of magnitude the precision compared to previous methods.
The purification of K is achieved through ion exchange chromatography on AG50W-X8 cation exchange resins.
Wood ashes were washed with water to dissolve the potash. The word alkali means a strong, harsh chemical that can be used for cleaning.
Common household lye (such as Drano) is a typical alkali.
The K ratios are analyzed with a GV Instruments Iso Probe P Multiple-Collector Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (MC-ICP-MS) equipped with a hexapole collision gas cell.