1.823 (white)
Ne] 3s23p3
2, 8, 5
1.823 (white)
44.15°C, 111.47°F, 317.3 K
280.5°C, 536.9°F, 553.7 K
Hennig Brandt
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Uses and Properties

Image Explanation

The tip of a matchstick typically contains phosphorus. Phosphorus is a chemical element often used in match heads because of its highly reactive nature. When you strike a match against a rough surface, the friction generates enough heat to ignite the phosphorus in the match head, which then starts the combustion of the matchstick and creates a flame. This chemical reaction is what allows matches to light when struck.


The two main forms of phosphorus are white phosphorus and red phosphorus. White phosphorus is a poisonous waxy solid and contact with skin can cause severe burns. It glows in the dark and is spontaneously flammable when exposed to air. Red phosphorus is an amorphous non-toxic solid.


Fueling Progress and Innovation by Using Phosphorus 

Phosphorus, an essential chemical element with the symbol P on the periodic table, is a powerhouse of versatility and significance in our world. From agriculture to industry, phosphorus plays a critical role in a wide range of applications. In this article, we will explore the diverse and vital uses of phosphorus, highlighting its contributions to agriculture, medicine, technology, and more.


1. Fertilizer Production: The Agricultural Backbone

Phosphorus is an agricultural cornerstone, primarily used in the form of phosphates, which serve as essential components of fertilizers. These fertilizers provide crops with the necessary nutrients for healthy growth. Phosphorus aids in root development, flowering, and fruiting, making it indispensable for global food production. Without phosphorus-based fertilizers, agricultural yields would be significantly lower, and food scarcity could become a pressing concern.


2. Food and Beverage Preservation: A Culinary Ally

Phosphates derived from phosphorus are commonly used in the food and beverage industry for preservation. They help maintain the freshness and quality of products by preventing spoilage and extending shelf life. Phosphates can be found in a variety of processed foods, from deli meats to canned soups, ensuring that these products remain safe and palatable for extended periods.


3. Water Treatment: Ensuring Safe Drinking Water

Phosphorus compounds are crucial in water treatment processes. They assist in removing impurities from water sources, such as phosphates and heavy metals. By precipitating these contaminants, phosphorus aids in ensuring safe and clean drinking water for communities worldwide. Additionally, phosphorus is employed in wastewater treatment to reduce pollution and protect aquatic ecosystems.


4. Medicine and Pharmaceuticals: Healing and Health

Phosphorus is a fundamental element in human biology, forming a critical component of DNA, RNA, and ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the energy currency of cells. Phosphorus-based compounds are also used in a wide range of pharmaceuticals, from antacids to pain relievers. In the field of medicine, phosphorus plays a vital role in diagnostic imaging through the use of radiophosphorus isotopes.


5. Flame Retardants: Enhancing Safety

Phosphorus compounds are frequently utilized as flame retardants in various products, such as textiles, plastics, and building materials. By slowing down the combustion process and reducing the spread of flames, phosphorus-based flame retardants contribute to enhanced fire safety in both residential and industrial settings.


6. Metallurgy: Strengthening Alloys

Phosphorus is used in metallurgy to strengthen alloys, primarily steel. Phosphorus acts as a grain refiner and improves the mechanical properties of steel, making it more resistant to corrosion and wear. These enhanced properties are particularly valuable in the construction of bridges, buildings, and vehicles.


7. Fertilizer Additives: Boosting Nutrient Uptake

In addition to its role as a primary nutrient in fertilizers, phosphorus is also used as an additive to enhance the efficiency of nutrient uptake by plants. Additives like phosphoric acid improve the solubility of other nutrients in the soil, promoting healthier and more productive crops.


8. DNA and Genetic Research: Unlocking Life's Mysteries

Phosphorus's presence in the structure of DNA, the genetic blueprint of all living organisms, is a testament to its importance in genetic research. Scientists and researchers utilize phosphorus-based compounds in the study of genetics, molecular biology, and genomics. These compounds are essential for processes like polymerase chain reactions (PCR) and DNA sequencing.


9. Advanced Technologies: Enabling Innovation

Phosphorus-based materials are integral to the manufacturing of semiconductors, solar cells, and batteries. These technologies power our modern world, from the devices we use daily to renewable energy sources. Phosphorus's role in these advanced applications highlights its significance in innovation and sustainability.


Phosphorus's Invaluable Contributions

Phosphorus, with its wide-ranging applications, is an elemental champion of progress and innovation. From bolstering global food production to improving healthcare, ensuring safe water supplies, and enhancing fire safety, phosphorus is an unsung hero that touches our lives in countless ways. Its contributions to agriculture, industry, and science underscore its pivotal role in powering our modern world. As we continue to advance in technology and industry, phosphorus remains an indispensable element, fueling progress and ensuring a brighter and more sustainable future for all.


Phosphorus, symbolized as P on the periodic table, is a chemical element that has left an indelible mark on human history. From its accidental discovery in the late 17th century to its critical role in agriculture, warfare, and modern technology, phosphorus has evolved from an alchemical curiosity to a fundamental element driving progress and innovation. In this article, we will embark on a historical journey to explore the fascinating evolution of phosphorus and its enduring impact on our world.


The Alchemical Roots: Discovery of the Philosopher's Stone

Phosphorus's story begins with its discovery by accident in the late 17th century. In 1669, German alchemist Hennig Brand was on a quest to create the fabled philosopher's stone—a substance believed to possess the power to transmute base metals into gold and grant immortality. During his experiments, Brand heated large quantities of urine, hoping to find the elusive stone. Instead, he encountered a substance that emitted an eerie green glow in the dark.


The Glow of Discovery: Brand's "Cold Fire"

Brand had unintentionally discovered phosphorus, a name derived from the Greek words "phos" (light) and "phoros" (bearer). The element's unique property of glowing in the dark earned it the moniker "cold fire." Brand's initial excitement at his discovery was followed by the realization that phosphorus had no magical properties. However, his findings sparked scientific interest in this new element.


Phosphorus in Medicine: A Luminous Revolution

The luminescent properties of phosphorus made it a subject of fascination and experimentation. In the early 18th century, researchers began to explore its potential medical applications. Phosphorescent compounds were used in the manufacturing of matches, where phosphorus played a critical role in igniting the match heads when struck. These early matches, known as "strike anywhere" matches, were a significant advancement in fire-starting technology.


Warfare and the Birth of the Match Industry

The use of phosphorus in matches also had a profound impact on warfare. Soldiers in the field began to carry phosphorus matches for cooking and lighting purposes. The convenience and reliability of these matches led to the emergence of the match industry in the 19th century, with factories producing large quantities of matches for military and civilian use.


The Discovery of White Phosphorus: A Double-Edged Sword

One of the most significant developments in the history of phosphorus was the discovery of white phosphorus by British scientist John Walker in 1827. White phosphorus was even more reactive than its red counterpart, and it ignited spontaneously upon exposure to air. While this discovery furthered the match industry, it also brought about new challenges. The use of white phosphorus in matches resulted in frequent and devastating workplace accidents in match factories, as well as alarming cases of "phossy jaw," a painful and disfiguring condition caused by phosphorus exposure.


Phosphorus in Agriculture: The Green Revolution

As the devastating consequences of white phosphorus exposure became apparent, the search for safer phosphorus sources led to the development of phosphate fertilizers in the mid-19th century. These fertilizers provided a much-needed solution to the problem of nutrient-poor soils, dramatically increasing agricultural productivity. Phosphorus's role in fertilizers has been instrumental in the global agricultural industry, contributing to the "Green Revolution" and helping to feed a growing world population.


Modern Uses: Phosphorus in Technology and Industry

Phosphorus continues to be a vital element in modern technology and industry. It is used in the production of semiconductors, an essential component of electronic devices. Phosphorus is also employed in the manufacturing of detergents, water treatment, and flame retardants, where it plays a crucial role in enhancing fire safety.


Conclusion: Phosphorus's Enduring Legacy

The history of phosphorus is a captivating journey from alchemical experiments to groundbreaking scientific discoveries and practical applications. From its mystical origins as the "philosopher's stone" to its pivotal role in agriculture, industry, and modern technology, phosphorus has emerged as a versatile and indispensable element. Its impact on the development of matches, its contributions to agriculture, and its continued significance in technology and industry underscore the enduring legacy of this element. Phosphorus has illuminated the past and continues to pave the way for progress, serving as a testament to human curiosity and innovation.

Atomic Data

Atomic Radiues, Non-bonded (A): 1.80
Electron Affinity (kJ mol-1): 72.037
Covalent Radiues (A): 1.09
Electronegativity (Pauling Scale): 2.19
Ionisation Energies (kJ mol-1) 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th
1011.812 1907.467 2914.118 4963.582 6273.969 21267.395 25430.64 29871.9

Oxidation States and Isotopes

Common oxidation states 5, 3, -3
Isotope Atomic Mass Natural Abundance Half Life Mode of Decay
31P 30.974 100 - -

Supply Risk

Relative Supply Risk: 5
Crustal Abundance (ppm): 567
Recycle Rate (%): Unknown
Production Conc.(%) : 38.5
Top 3 Producers:
1) China
2) Mexico
3) Morocco
Top 3 Reserve Holders:
1) Morocco
2) China
3) USA
Substitutability: Unknown
Political Stability of Top Producer: 24.1
Political Stability of Top Reserve Holder: 29.4

Pressure and Temperature Data

Specific Heat Capacity: 769
Shear Modulus: Unknown
Young Modulus: Unknown
Bulk Modulus: 10.9 (red); 4.9 (white)
Pressure 400k Pressure 600k Pressure 800k Pressure 1000k Pressure 1200k Pressure 1400k Pressure 1600k Pressure 1800k Pressure 2000k Pressure 2200k Pressure 2400k
- - - - - - - - - - 10.9 (red); 4.9 (white)


Transcript :

Phosphorus is an essential ingredient for the normal functioning of living cells. It is a component of ATP, or, Adenosine triphosphate, the energy source for living systems. In regard to this, it plays an important role in the DNA. A number of key compounds are made from Phosphorus, including phosphate salts. They are used in pesticides, explosives, detergents, and fireworks. In addition, Phosphorus is part of cell membranes and is found in many types of nerve agents. Despite the name, Phosphorus is a reactive non-metal.

The chemical structure of Phosphorus is similar to that of nitrogen. In Phosphorus, the outer shell arrangement contains three half-filled orbitals. It also contains an additional lone pair of electrons It has a valence shell consisting of three single bonds. It has a nucleus with 15 protons and an empty orbital d. Moreover, it is an indispensable constituent of the human body. It also occurs in a variety of chemical forms, which are all called "allotropes". Phosphorus is essential to life. It provides nutrients for plants and animals. It is also important for chemical synthesis and alloying. The Phosphorus cycle is a process that involves the uptake and decomposition of inorganic phosphate by plants, animals, and aquatic organisms. These natural processes are responsible for the influx of Phosphorus into the soil, oceans, and streams. However, humans have altered the process through soil management practices. It is often found in phosphate form.

During the 12th century, Arabian alchemists may have discovered elemental Phosphorus by accident. However, other chemists might have discovered it at the same time. The first discovery of Phosphorus was made in 1669 by German physician Hennig Brand. He was interested in the properties of urine and tried to create "Philosopher's Stone". Hennig Brand boiled urine with sand and charcoal to produce a vapor. He then condensed the vapor in water. He discovered elemental Phosphorus. It's the 3rd most common chemical element on our universe.

Phosphorous is also found in plant seeds. As a multivalent nonmetal. This element is not naturally found in its free form. However, it is commonly found in inorganic phosphate rocks. It may be found as a constituent in a variety of salts and crystals. In the past, Phosphorus production plants often used underground tanks to store Phosphorus. These were often lined with linings to prevent leaking. In addition, the outflow from waste piles was monitored.

The process for production of white Phosphorus involves heating the material in a closed mill from 100 to 180 ºC to remove water. The slurry is then sieved and then transferred to railcars for offsite transportation. Phosphorus is an important component of our food. It is present in various foods, including eggs, nuts, legumes, and soy products.

Phosphorous has a range of oxidation states and is a common element in many chemical reactions. Its properties have been well recognized for thousands of years. It is essential to many biological systems, such as teeth and bones. In addition, it has applications in the fields of pyrotechnics and chemical syntheses. Despite of similarities with nitrogen in terms of structure, it has lower electronegativity than this later.

The nucleus of a Phosphorus atom has 15 protons and 15 electrons. The oxidation state of Phosphorus is +3 or -3. In the gaseous state, a tetrahedral P4 molecule is formed. In the solid state, the molecule is insoluble in water and soluble in carbon disulphide.

The chemical property of Phosphorus known as "black Phosphorus" has the lowest reactivity of any known form of the element. Phosphorus is considered to be a hazardous substance. It is further regulated under the Clean Water Act Amendments of 1977 and 1978.

White Phosphorus is the most reactive allotropic form of elemental Phosphorus. It forms a tetrahedral crystal, which oxidizes to Phosphorus Pentoxide, P4O10. In addition, the beta form has a hexagonal crystal structure. Red Phosphorus is a much denser form of Phosphorus, and is less reactive than its white allotrope. At low temperatures, it is amorphous, but becomes crystalline at higher temperatures.

Several studies have shown that the application of Phosphorus improves crops yield. Multiple variables affect this procedure. These include the soil properties, the tillage system used, and the source of the nutrient and the timing of the application.

For optimal crop yields, green compost applications should include Phosphorus. The benefits of this technique include increased rooting density, increased biomass in the debut of the season, and higher concentrations of available Phosphorus.

Another method of moving Phosphorus from the soil to the crop is the application of humic acid. According to the findings of several investigations, the presence of both Phosphorus and humic acid together has a beneficial impact. Others report no change in yield, but it could be attributed to the level of humic acid applied.

It finds widespread use in goods such as fuses, explosives, and other types of incendiary weapons.

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Phosphorus played an important role in fertilizers, munitions, and matches. It also figured prominently in the development of food phosphates and detergents. Phosphorus is used in medicines as well. It is also used in dietary supplements. Some supplements include phosphate salts and other ingredients.


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