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Hydrogenation of white phosphorus leads way to safer chemical technology

June 18, 2019

White phosphorus is well-known for being a highly toxic compound with suffocating scent. Its high reactivity is the reason for it to be stored with oxygen access in inert media. It's also infamous for its military use in bombs and grenades.

Meanwhile, KFU scientists are hard at work to tame the dangerous compound. Project head Zufar Gafurov explains, "We have suggested an effective method of selective electric synthesis of P-H and P-C bonds contiaining derivatives directly from white phosphorus, which may help avoid the use of existing chlorine oxygenation technology. We have found completely new ways of obtaining organophosphorous compounds directly from white phosphorus."

The proposed technological process comprises electrolysis of white phosphorus and an acid on a lead cathode with resulting synthesis of oxygen radicals. The electrolyser is a non-flowing cell without a diaphragm. This new method is in line with contemporary strict environmental requirements.

"Soft conditions, high speed, selectivity and easy control are the advantages of this method for industrial applications. Furthermore, it's very clean in comparison with traditional methods of organic chemistry," adds Dr. Gafurov.

The research group plans to move further in its work on white phosphorus.

Kazan Federal University

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