Related topics: nitrogen

Scientists unearth green treasure—albeit rusty—in the soil

Cornell University engineers have taken a step in understanding how iron in the soil may unlock naturally occurring phosphorus bound in organic matter, which can be used in fertilizer, so that one day farmers may be able ...

Manipulating atoms one at a time with an electron beam

The ultimate degree of control for engineering would be the ability to create and manipulate materials at the most basic level, fabricating devices atom by atom with precise control.

Where there's waste there's fertilizer

We all know plants need nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorus. To give crops a boost, they are often put on fields as fertilizer. But we never talk about where the nutrients themselves come from.

Turning wastewater sludge into energy and mineral salts

A system developed by EPFL spin-off TreaTech can turn sludge from wastewater treatment plants into mineral salts – which could be used in fertilizer, for example – and biogas. The firm's research is being funded by several ...

Getting fertilizer in the right place at the right rate

We've all heard about the magical combination of being in the right place at the right time. Well for fertilizer, it's more accurate to say it should be in the right place at the right rate. A group of Canadian scientists ...

Why researchers are mapping the world's manure

Farmers rely on phosphorus fertilizers to enrich the soil and ensure bountiful harvests, but the world's recoverable reserves of phosphate rocks, from which such fertilizers are produced, are finite and unevenly distributed. ...

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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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