What Is Red Phosphorus?

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Red phosphorus is the second most common type of phosphorus, being an allotrope of the element. It was discovered in the 1800s and has a variety of applications.


Red phosphorus is nontoxic, odorless and active chemically, though not highly. It is dark red, and unlike white phosphorus, is not phosphorescent.

Atomic Structure

Red phosphorus's atomic structure is made up of four tedrahedrally grouped phosphorus atoms. These atoms link into chains.


Red phosphorus can be made from heat-treating white phosphorus in sealed containers or by exposing it to sunlight.


Red phosphorus was discovered in 1845 by Anton von Schrötter, an Austrian chemist. He put white phosphorus in a flask that contained nitrogen and heated it to around 482 degrees F for a few hours.


Red phosphorus is used in the production of semiconductors, pyrotechnics, fertilizers, safety matches, pesticides, smoke bombs, incendiary shells in organic synthesis reactions and certain flame retardants. It is also used in electroluminescent coatings.


Red phosphorus is used in the making of methamphetamine (meth), an illegal drug. In this process, red phosphorus is mixed with iodine to produce hydriodic acid.


About the Author

Joan Reinbold is a writer, author of six books, blogs and makes videos. She has been a tutor for students, library assistant, certified dental assistant and business owner. She has lived (and gardened) on three continents, learning home renovation in the process. She received her Bachelor of Arts in 2006.

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