Introduction to Phosphates

  • Phosphorous (P4) burns in air and exists in nature as phosphates.
  • Phosphate is made up of a phosphorus atom and four oxygen atoms Phosphoric_acid.svg(PO4) and carries three negative charges. The phosphate ion combines with various atoms and molecules within living organisms to form many different compounds essential to life.
  • Phosphorous undergoes a natural, biogeochemical cycle over millions of years. Starting with plants, these absorb phosphates from water and soil; animals consume the plants and return some phosphates to the soil as waste. Both plants and animals die returning more phosphates into the soil. Phosphates in the soil are moved by rainfall and runoff into streams and rivers and so into lakes and seas where they settle to the bottom. In time they become sedimentary rock which may be exposed by geologic movementPhosphorus_Cycle_copy
  • Phosphate is conventionally measured and referred to in the form P2O5, even if the phosphate is actually in a different molecular form like phosphoric acid (H3PO4).
  • Phosphates have been mined for the last 150 years. Phosphate is a limited resource that cannot be replaced. It is a non-renewable resource that must be mined from nature. It cannot be artificially produced.

Source: R. Gilmour – Phosphoric Acid, Purification, Uses, Technology & Economics  (Boca Raton, FL, CRC Press, 2014)

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