How to Obtain Red Phosphorus

By Damien Thryn
phosphorus matches image by JCVStock from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Red phosphorous is an allotrope of elemental phosphorous and has many uses. Highly flammable, it is a component of both matches and pyrotechnics, and it has military applications in the form of tracer rounds and incendiary munitions. Red phosphorus has gained the attention of law enforcement due to its function in producing illegal methamphetamine. It is obtained from white phosphorus by heating the latter substance to a temperature of 482 degrees F, according to a 2005 lecture by Professor Yihui Yang at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, that is published on the Internet. White phosphorus is highly toxic, and the production of red phosphorus is a delicate operation best left to professionals.

Step 1

Remove all air from an airtight container using a vacuum pump.

Step 2

explosive image by Alex White from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Transfer immersed white phosphorus into the airlock. When you do this, ensure that all air is forced out of the airlock to avoid an explosion.

Step 3

Move the immersed white phosphorus from the airlock into the airtight container. Do this without breaking the external airlock seal.

Step 4

Heat the airtight container to at least 482 degrees F. The white phosphorus will slowly change into red phosphorus. When the entire sample of phosphorus turns from a white color to a deep red, the process is complete.

About the Author

Damien Thryn holds a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of California at Berkeley. Specializing in writing on video games, he has played PC games for more than 20 years and has written about many classics. He is also an avid console gamer.