Phosphorus

What is Phosphorus?

Phosphorus is a chemical element that represents symbol (P) and has phosphorus atomic number 15. It exists in two primary forms, i.e., red phosphorus and white phosphorus. It is highly reactive in nature; therefore, it is never found as a free element on earth. In the earth’s crust, its concentration is about one gram per kilogram. Phosphorus is usually known as ‘phosphate’ in minerals. Here are some facts about Phosphorus -

  • Group = 15

  • Period = 3

  • Block = p

  • Atomic number = 15

  • State at 20 degrees = Solid

  • Electron configuration = [Ne] 3s23p3

  • ChemSpider ID = 4575369

  • Melting point = 44.15°C

  • Boiling point = 280.5°C

  • Density = 1.823 gm cm-3

  • Relative atomic mass = 30.974

  • Key isotopes = 31p


History of Phosphorus

Hennig Brand discovered phosphorus in the year 1669. Hennig was a German merchant whose hobby was alchemy. He allowed around 50 buckets of urine to stand until they purified and bred worms. Brand thereby discovered distilling elemental phosphorus from the mixture by boiling the urine into a paste and then heating it with sand. He reported his discovery and demonstration in a letter, along with the ability of the element to glow in the dark, otherwise known as ‘Phosphoresce’ which excited public interest. After a century, phosphorus proved to be a component of bones. Phosphoric acid is the digestion of bones with sulfuric and nitric acid from which phosphorus is distilled by heating charcoal.


The Chemical Appearance of Phosphorus

The main types of phosphorus are white and red phosphorus. While the nature of white phosphorus is poisonous solid waxy and contact with the skin can cause severe burns. It can glow in the dark and is instantly flammable when exposed to air. Red phosphorus in nature is an amorphous non-toxic solid.


Uses of Phosphorus

There are many phosphorus uses, among which white phosphorus is used in incendiary devices and flares. In everyday use, red phosphorus is found on the side of the matchbox. Safety matches are struck against it to light them. 


The significant use of the phosphorus compound is for fertilisers. Phosphate ores are created from ammonium phosphate. The ores are initially converted into phosphoric acid before being converted into ammonium phosphate.


Phosphorus is also a vital element in the production of steel. Some detergents have phosphate as an ingredient, but it has started to phase out in several countries. Due to high phosphate level in natural water supplies, it can cause unwanted algae to grow. The production of fine chinaware and special glasses also uses phosphates.


Uses of Phosphorus for Health and Body

Phosphorus is a mineral that is found in foods like beans, fish, cheese, and beer. It is a common substance in the everyday environment of your body. It plays a crucial role in the bones, muscles, kidneys, and blood vessel health along with the cells in your body.


Along with calcium, phosphorus helps build bones. For good bone health, you need a correct amount of calcium as well as phosphorus. Phosphorus is a vital structure in nucleic acids and cell membranes and is also involved in the production of the body’s energy. When the level of calcium is high, your body absorbs less phosphorus and vice versa. Also, vitamin D is essential to absorb phosphorus properly.


You can get the right amount of phosphorus and maintain the balance. For lowering the levels of phosphorus, medical practitioners may prescribe phosphate binders. By consuming the binders with meals and snacks, it limits the amount of phosphorus your body can absorb. Various lifestyle choices like staying hydrated, enough exercising, and having a balanced low phosphorus diet can balance the levels of phosphorus.


Foods That Have a High Level of Phosphorus are as Follows:

  • Cod

  • Salmon

  • Pork

  • Tuna

  • Milk

  • Yoghurt

  • Chocolate

  • American and ricotta cheese

  • Eggnog

  • Instant pudding

  • Blueberry muffins

  • Nachos

  • Bran cereal

Foods Too Low on Phosphorus are as Follows:

  • Vegetables

  • Fresh fruits

  • Popcorn

  • Saltines

  • Bread

  • Cornflakes

  • Eggs


Physical Properties of Phosphorus

Physical properties are the characteristics that can be seen without changing the substance into another substance. Physical properties are observed using senses like colour, boiling point, freezing point, melting point, hardness, density, and odour. The physical properties are as follows:

  • White phosphorus is a poisonous waxy solid which emits a greenish-white glow. It glows in the dark and is instantly flammable when exposed to air. Also, it does not dissolve in water.

  • Red phosphorus is in the form of a powder that can vary in colour from purple to orange because of the minimal variation in chemical structure. It does not dissolve in various liquids.

  • Black phosphorus is formed under high pressure which looks more like graphite powder and can conduct electricity.


Chemical Properties of Phosphorus

Chemical properties are the characteristics that determine their reaction with another substance or its ability to change from one element to another. Only during a chemical reaction, chemical properties are observed.

  • Most of the chemical activity is exhibited by white phosphorus

  • Red and black phosphorus are passive n chemical reaction

  • Through a chain reaction, the oxidation of white phosphorus occurs

  • Combines directly with all halogens

  • Phosphorus forms phosphides when heated with metals

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. How is the Appearance of Phosphorus and Where is it Found?

Answer: Phosphorus comes in white, red, and black in colour. It glows in the dark when combined with certain elements. It can smell like garlic and is not usually found free in nature. Elemental phosphorus has four forms that are white, red, purple, and black. White phosphorus is reactive and burns into flame when exposed to warm air. It is usually stored underwater due to its responsive nature. All other forms are non-reactive. A single compound of phosphorus and calcium phosphate is a significant component of bones.

2. Is Phosphorus Solid, Liquid or Gaseous?

Answer: In a periodic table, elements are classified according to their physical state, i.e., state of matter, for example, solid, liquid, or gaseous. Phosphorus is solid in nature. It is classified as an element in the non-metal section, which is in groups 14, 15, and 16 of the periodic table. Non-metallic elements best exist at room temperature in gases and solids. This is why we can conclude that as per the periodic table layout, phosphorus is classified as a solid. It is a non - metallic chemical element of the nitrogen family. It is typically found in Group 15 [Va] of the periodic table.