Man invented fire ages ago and till date, fire is an indispensable aspect of our everyday life. Right from cooking to light, we use fire directly or indirectly. We use matchsticks for lighting the lamp and also for many other things. The matchsticks have phosphorus and let us now find out more about phosphorus...
Everyday Chemistry - Phosphorus: The Bringer of Light
Ever since man discovered fire, it has been an indispensable aspect of our everyday life. Wondering what phosphorus has to do with fire? Keep reading...
Let there be Light (Phosphorus)
Phosphorus has the ability to ignite readily and hence is used as the main constituent in the heads of matches. It smoulders in air, and when it is warmed, it bursts into flames thereby producing thick, acidic smoke.
In the late 17th century, a German alchemist named Hennig Brandt heated the solid residue that was formed by the evaporation of urine. The distilled vapour glowed in the dark. As a result of this observation, Brandt named his new discovery Phosphorus, which meant "bringer of light".
Basic Info - Phosphorus belongs to the same family of elements as nitrogen, arsenic and antimony. Phosphorus in its pure form is extremely poisonous and even a quantity as little as 0.1 gram can prove fatal. However, in contrast, it is indispensable for all living organisms.
Iím present in all living organisms - Every living organism has phosphorus in its body. The largest concentration of phosphate is called as hydroxyapatite, which is a form of calcium phosphate that is found in bones and teeth. Phosphate is needed in our diet to the extent of around 0.8 gram per day. It has also been obtained from bones and the droppings of sea birds known as Guano
But I am dangerous too - In the 19th and early 20th centuries, workers in match factories suffered from a painful disfiguring disintegration of the jawbone, which was known as "phossy jaw". This cause of this was inhaling phosphorus vapour.
In fact during World War II, thousands of tonnes of phosphorus were dropped in German cities. This killed more people than the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Ironically, one of the cities that were destroyed using phosphorus was Hamburg, where the element was first discovered.