Phosphorus

Helps things grow, and helps things glow!

By Sarah de Boda and Aniah Rico

The four common allotropes of phosphorus: white, red, violet/blue, and black

Phosphorus

Symbol:  P

Atomic number: 15

Atomic mass: 30.974

Cost: only $4 per 100 grams!

Discovered by: Hennig Brand, an alchemist, discovered phosphorus in Germany, 1669.

“The Alchymist, In Search of the Philosopher’s Stone.” Painted by Joseph Wright.

Common Uses of Phosphorus- What's the fuss on phosphorus?

Fantastic for fertilizers - it's a component of the complex nucleic acid structure of plants, which regulates protein synthesis. Adding phosphorus to soil low in available phosphorus promotes root growth and winter hardiness and often hastens maturity.

Excellent insect exterminator - speaking of plant health, phosphorus is also effective in killing insects in gardens, because it is toxic to them in small doses and usually won't be any danger to birds.

Makes magnificent matches - red phosphorus is what makes the match light up.

Interesting Facts about Phosphorus

  • Hennig Brand extracted pure forms of phosphorus from urine.
  • some types of phosphorus such as white phosphorus can catch fire spontaneously from air!
  • there are gaseous types of phosphorus called diphosphorus and atomic phosphorus.
  • pure phosphorus is colourless and transparent, but there are multiple allotropic forms: white or yellow, red, black, and violet. So many colours and uses to choose from!
  • It's an essential mineral in all organisms' cell protoplasm, nerve tissue, and bones, but can be highly toxic in large doses.
  • the name "phosphorus" comes from the Greek word "phosphoros", meaning bringer of light. Hennig Brand called it "cold fire" because it was luminous and glowed in the dark.

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