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The Element Phosphorus


"The Atom"

What is phosphorus as on the Periodic Table? Definition of the Phosphorus Element
Phosphorus is a solid. A highly reactive, poisonous, non-metallic element occurring naturally in phosphates, especially apatite, and existing in three allotropic forms, white (or sometimes yellow), red and black. White phosphorous is the one manufactured industrial; it glows in the dark, is spontaneously flammable when exposed to air and is deadly poison.

Red phosphorous can vary in colour from orange to purple, due to slight variations in its chemical structure. Black phosphorous, is made under high pressure, looks like graphite and has the ability to conduct electricity. An essential constituent of protoplasm, it is used in safety matches, pyrotechnics, incendiary shells, and fertilizers and to protect metal surfaces from corrosion. The Atomic Number of this element is 15 and the Element Symbol is P.

The Properties of the Phosphorus Element
Symbol of Element : P
Atomic Number : 15
Atomic Mass: 30.97376 amu 
Melting Point: 44.1 C - 317.25 K
Boiling Point: 280.0 C - 553.15 K
Number of Protons/Electrons: 15
Number of Neutrons: 16
Crystal Structure: Monoclinic
Density @ 293 K: 1.82 g/cm3
Color : white, yellow, red, violet and black

What is phosphorus? Origin / Meaning of the name Phosphorus
The name originates from the Greek words phos meaning light and phoros meaning bearer creating the term 'bringing light' because white phosphorus oxidizes spontaneously in air and glows in the dark.

What is phosphorus? Periodic Table Group and Classification of the Phosphorus Element
Elements can be classified based on their physical states (States of Matter) e.g. gas, solid or liquid. This element is a solid. Phosphorus is classified as an element in the 'Non-Metals' section which can be located in groups 14,15 and 16 of the Periodic Table. Non-metallic elements exist, at room temperature, in two of the three states of matter: gases (Oxygen, Hydrogen & Nitrogen) and solids (Carbon, Phosphorus, Sulfur and Selenium). For additional facts and info see Phosphorus Properties.

What is phosphorus? The Discovery of Phosphorus
The element phosphorus was discovered by the alchemist Hennig Brand, of Hamburg, in 1669, while searching for the philosopher's stone. It is prepared from urine and was the first element to be chemically discovered. Owing to its peculiar properties and the secrecy which was maintained about its preparation, it remained a very rare and costly substance until the demand for it in the manufacture of matches brought about its production on a large scale.

What is phosphorus? Facts about the History of the Discovery of Phosphorus Element
Properties within each individual group are similar, but nevertheless vary within a group. Generally chemical activity decreases as the period increases a non-metal group and increases as the period increases within a metal group. The first element in a group is always an active metal, the last is always an inactive non-metal.

What is phosphorus? Occurrence of the Phosphorus Element
Owing to its great chemical activity phosphorus never occurs free in nature. In the form of phosphates it is very abundant and widely distributed. Phosphorite and sombrerite are mineral forms of Calciumphosphate, while apatite consists of calcium phosphate together with calcium fluoride or chloride. These minerals form very large deposits and are extensively mined for use as fertilizers. Calcium phosphate is a constituent of all fertile soil, having been supplied to the soil by the disintegration of rocks containing it. It is the chief mineral constituent of bones of animals, and bone ash is therefore nearly pure calcium phosphate.
Occurs naturally in phosphates, especially apatite, and existing in three allotropic forms
Found in USA, Russia, Africa

Abundances of the element in different environments
% in Universe 0.0007%
% in Sun 0.0007%
% in Meteorites 0.11%
% in Earth's Crust 0.099%
% in Oceans 710-6%
% in Humans 1.1%

Medical Uses of Phosphorus - Health and Treatments
Interesting information is contained in the following list of Medical Uses of Phosphorus, Health and Treatments.

  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia: Various symptoms: Phosphorus 32 is used as a radiopharmaceutical as a colloid with chromium

A useful reference providing information regarding the medical uses of Phosphorus, associated health issues and disorders and treatments using Phosphorus preparations.  

Associated Uses of Phosphorus
A well known use of red phosphorus is the safety match. The red phosphorus 'safety' matches were invented by fellow Gustaf Erik Pasch in 1855. The safety aspect was that the match did not contain all the elements for combustion. This was achieved by a chemical reaction between the match head and the striking surface.
Safety matches
Incendiary shells and bombs
Steel production

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