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Phosphorus (P): Other Nonmetals

Phosphorus (P)

What is Phosphorus?

Phosphorus (P), nonmetallic chemical element of the nitrogen family (Group 15 [Va] of the periodic table) that at room temperature is a colourless, semitransparent, soft, waxy solid that glows in the dark. Phosphorus is a very widely distributed element—12th most abundant in Earth’s crust, to which it contributes about 0.10 weight percent. Its cosmic abundance is about one atom per 100 atoms of silicon, the standard. Phosphorus is used almost entirely in the form of compounds, usually in the oxidation states of +3, +5, and −3. Continue reading from Encyclopedia Britannica

The History

Phosphorus was first made by Hennig Brandt at Hamburg in 1669 when he evaporated urine and heated the residue until it was red hot, whereupon phosphorus vapour distilled which he collected by condensing it in water. Brandt kept his discovery secret, thinking he had discovered the Philosopher’s Stone that could turn base metals into gold. When he ran out of money, he sold phosphorus to Daniel Kraft who exhibited it around Europe including London where Robert Boyle was fascinated by it. He discovered how it was produced and investigated it systematically. (His assistant Ambrose Godfrey set up his own business making and selling phosphorus and became rich.)

When it was realised that bone was calcium phosphate, and could be used to make phosphorus, it became more widely available. Demand from match manufacturers in the 1800s ensured a ready market. Continue reading from Royal Society of Chemistry

Phosphorus Facts

The world phosphorus comes from a Greek word meaning "bearer of light". The most common forms are white phosphorus, made up of phosphorus atoms arranged like a tetrahedron (a four-sided pyramid), and red phosphorus, a solid but non-crystalline form of the element. Less common is black phosphorus, which is made of atoms arranged in a ring structure and looks a bit like the graphite at the point of a pencil. Strike-anywhere matches can ignite on any surface because they contain a small amount of white phosphorus built in to the match head. There are about 26.5 ounces (750 grams) of phosphate in the average human body, mostly in the bones. Continue reading rom LiveScience

Chart of Elemental Properties for Phosphorus

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