Periodic Table -> Phosphorus

Phosphorus


Phosphorus Details

Phosphorus Symbol: P

Phosphorus Atomic Number: 15

Phosphorus Atomic Weight: 30.9738

What is Phosphorus?

Phosphorus (atomic number 15, symbol P) is a non-metal with a monoclinic structure and 3 main allotropes - black, red, and white. It has 3 oxidation states - 5, 4, 3 and is a multivalent non-mental. The element occurs in the form of phosphates, as organophosphates, and in minerals.

Because it is highly reactive, white phosphorus should be stored under water, meaning that the element does not occur freely in nature. It is reactive, soft, poisonous, and explosive. Black phosphorus has few commercial applications and is used to make anodes for lithium-ion batteries. It does not ignite easily and is less reactive than the other two. It is a good conductor of electricity and is black in color. Red phosphorus is formed when white phosphorus is exposed to light or when heated, making it amorphous. The allotrope has polymeric structure and is used in the production of safety matches.

Phosphorus was discovered in 1669 by Hennig Brand, an alchemist and physician of German origin. He processed, filtered, and boiled a large amount of urine to isolate the element. Because phosphorus was used in nerve agents, poisons, and explosives, it is also known as the Devilís element. It has different commercial applications and is used for smoke-screening, production of incendiary and smoke bombs, as well as tracer ammunition. One of the phosphorus compounds, phosphoric acid is used to make a variety of phosphate compounds and soft drinks. Water softeners and cleaning agents are made by using another compound, trisodium phosphate. Calcium phosphate is used to produce baking powder and to manufacture china. Some compounds of phosphorus absorb radiation and emit light and are used in the production of television sets and light bulbs.


Inorganic phosphorus plays role in RNA and DNA. Phosphate is used by the cells to transport adenosine triphosphate, which is a form of cellular energy. All processes at the cellular level require adenosine triphosphate. A small percentage of phosphate can be found in the human blood while phosphorus is present in the teeth, bones, extracellular fluids, and soft tissues. The main sources of phosphorus are foods that contain protein such as meats, dairy products, and breads. Meats that are rich in phosphorus include fried and breaded scallops, crab, catfish, lamb, and others. Among the dairy products with a high amount of phosphorus are Swiss cheese, Ricotta cheese, instant chocolate pudding, and milkshakes. The amount present in different products varies. Vegetable oils are low in phosphorus while liver contains high amounts.

Apatite, including hydroxylapatite and fluorapatite, is a group of phosphate minerals. The major mining sites are found in Tunisia, the United States, Morocco, and Russia. Depletion of the phosphorus deposits is a source of concern because food production is dependent on it, especially in the form of fertilizers.

Large amounts of phosphate can cause a variety of health problems, including osteoporosis and kidney damage. White phosphorus is a very toxic allotrope and exposure can be fatal. Ingestion can cause drowsiness, stomach cramps, and nausea. In addition, it can cause kidney, heart, and liver damage, as well as skin burns.

The element does not accumulate in aquatic plants and species because it does not react with other elements quickly. It remains in soil for a couple of days and then is transformed into other substances. At the bottom of lakes and rivers and in deep soils, the element may remain for hundreds and thousands of years.



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