Basic chemistry

A brief History of phosphorus?

Uses of phosphorus And overview?

Phosphorus overview history and properties :

Phosphorus overview history and properties and it’s uses are elaborated here.Less famous than oxygen , phosphorus is none the less indispensable to life. Man uses this chemical element of the pnictogen family in abundance in his fertilizers, threatening the available reserves in the medium term.


  • Symbol: P
  • Atomic number: 15
  • Electrons by energy level : 2, 8, 5
  • Atomic mass: 30.9738 u
  • Most stable isotopes:  31 P stable with 16 neutrons (100%)
  • Series: Nonmetals
  • Group, period, block: 15 (VA), 3, p
  • Density: 1.82 (white), 2.16 (red), between 2.25 and 2.69 (black)
  • Point of fusion : 44.15 ° C (white)
  • Boiling point: 280.5 ° C

Phosphorus history

The discovery of phosphorus is attributed to the German Hennig Brandt, in 1669, who obtained it from the urine during his research on the philosopher’s stone. Pelletier, Lavoisier, Dulong and Davy or Berzelius studied combinations with other elements and compounds.

Its name comes from the Greek  phos and  pherein meaning respectively light and wear. In fact, white phosphorus emits visible light in the dark when it is exposed to the air .

Properties of phosphorus

Phosphorus can be white, red or black – these are the three allotropic forms of solid phosphorus . The first two have a quadratic structure. The black phosphorus has a structure identical to that of graphite . White phosphorus, tetrahedral and of formula P 4 , is a toxic body that oxidizes slowly in the air. As for red phosphorus, it forms very large molecules , the length of which is unknown.

White phosphorus becomes red phosphorus under the effect of light; the heat (280 ° C) causes the inverse transformation.

Use of phosphorus

Phosphorus overview history
Red phosphorus used in fireworks

Phosphorus is often not desired in alloys because it degrades the mechanical properties. Some bronzes contain them, which gives them improved machinability. White phosphorus is one of the main components of incendiary bombs. Red phosphorus is used in fireworks.

In the form of phosphate, phosphorus forms mineral fertilizers (this is its main application ) and is used in the manufacture of detergents. It is also a polishing agent in toothpastes and a stabilizing additive in certain foods. Some proteins contain phosphorus.

The acid phosphoric is used as a descaling agent, acidifying agent, antirust paint medium or nutrient in biological reactors.

It is also used in fireworks, matches and incendiary weapons. It is used for the production of steel , bronze and other products. We are worried about the depletion of our resources within a century. The exploitable phosphate rocks are concentrated in few places: Morocco (more than a third of the world’s reserves), China (a little more than a quarter of the world’s reserves), South Africa, United States.

Effects of phosphorus on health

In the form of phosphate, phosphorus is essential for humans because it is present in DNA . Phosphorus is present in the cells where it serves as a support for energy ( adenosine triphosphate ). Phosphates are also frequently found in plants.

However, excess phosphorus can cause kidney problems or osteoporosis . White phosphorus is the most dangerous form of phosphorus we know. It is extremely toxic and in many cases the exposure is fatal. In large quantities, it is lethal (rat poison). By contact, it can burn the skin and damage other organs.

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