Related topics: nitrogen

Efficient phosphorus use can prevent cropland expansion

More efficient use of phosphorus fertilizers would make it possible to meet food demand in 2050, without using more of the world's land for agriculture. This is what environmental scientists José Mogollón and colleagues ...

A well-balanced ecosystem uses water most efficiently

Modern human activity adds large amounts of nutrients to the environment, especially nitrogen, which is added faster than other nutrients. Although plants depend on nitrogen to live and grow, an excess of a single nutrient ...

How an 'antibiotic' helps bacteria eat

For years, scientists have known that certain bacteria produce molecules that are toxic to other bacteria when there is competition for food and space. Now, Caltech researchers have discovered these so-called antibiotics ...

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Phosphorus (pronounced /ˈfɒsfərəs/) is the chemical element that has the symbol P and atomic number 15. A multivalent nonmetal of the nitrogen group, phosphorus is commonly found in inorganic phosphate rocks. Elemental phosphorus exists in two major forms - white phosphorus and red phosphorus. Although the term "phosphorescence", meaning glow after illumination, derives from phosphorus, glow of phosphorus originates from oxidation of the white (but not red) phosphorus and should be called chemiluminescence.

Due to its high reactivity, phosphorus is never found as a free element in nature on Earth. The first form of phosphorus to be discovered (white phosphorus, discovered in 1669) emits a faint glow upon exposure to oxygen — hence its name given from Greek mythology, Φωσφόρος meaning "light-bearer" (Latin Lucifer), referring to the "Morning Star", the planet Venus.

Phosphorus is a component of DNA, RNA, ATP, and also the phospholipids which form all cell membranes. It is thus an essential element for all living cells. The most important commercial use of phosphorus-based chemicals is the production of fertilizers.

Phosphorus compounds are also widely used in explosives, nerve agents, friction matches, fireworks, pesticides, toothpaste and detergents.

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