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Phosphorus: Inorganic Chemistry

  1. Paul F. Kelly

Published Online: 15 DEC 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9781119951438.eibc0171

Encyclopedia of Inorganic and Bioinorganic Chemistry

Encyclopedia of Inorganic and Bioinorganic Chemistry

How to Cite

Kelly, P. F. 2011. Phosphorus: Inorganic Chemistry . Encyclopedia of Inorganic and Bioinorganic Chemistry. .

Author Information

  1. Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2011


The element phosphorus was first discovered in 1669, and some measure of the growth of its uses and importance since then is evident from the fact that approximately half a million tons of the element are now produced annually; in addition, phosphorus-based materials may be generated from naturally occurring phosphates, and for this reason over 130 million tons of such material are utilized per annum. Its importance to life means that natural phosphorus cycles occur; in addition, utilization of the element and its compounds is key to many industrial processes (producing products varying from pesticides to oil additives). In the laboratory, work has shown that many ‘naked’ phosphide anions can be prepared – these can even mimic organic systems, as in the case of the cyclo [P5] ligand, which binds face on to metals in the manner of the cylcopentadienyl ligand. In addition, there are many examples of transition metal complexes of ligands containing only phosphorus; these range in size from just a single phosphorus atom to complex structures containing up to 14 atoms. Away from transition metal chemistry, phosphorus forms compounds with elements from all groups of the periodic table barring the noble gases; this article provides an overview of such compounds, with special interest in compounds that have an industrial use, that stabilize unusual bonding arrangements, or that are of current interest. In the process, it highlights the ability of the element to become involved in catenation and to form small cluster units, often with many P[BOND]P bonds present. Thus, group 13 compounds of the element include the industrially important phosphides and a recently prepared new class of boron–phosphorus polymer. Silicon compounds of the element often exhibit unusual structures and some of these are illustrated and reference is made to multiple-bonded systems, including the first example of a phosphabismuthene. Sulfides such as P4S10 and halides such as PCl3 and POCl3 are of immense industrial importance and details of such processes and the consumption levels are provided. References to recent reviews on a range of pertinent topics are provided, including P[BOND]Si chemistry, phosphides, phosphorus-based polymers, phosphorus complexes of transition metals, phosphorus-borane chemistry, phosphane ligands, organophosphorus chemistry, and phosphorus hydrides.


  • phosphorus;
  • phosphane;
  • phosphide;
  • allotrope;
  • semiconductor;
  • cluster;
  • catenation;
  • ligand;
  • industrial;
  • halides;
  • sulfides