The Open Door Web Site
Characters involved in the Phosphorus Story
Hennig Brand (1630 - c. 1710)
Transcripts of Publications (1677 - 1853)
Aerial Noctiluca : Robert Boyle 1680
The Alchymist, In Search of the Philosopher's Stone,
HISTORY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
The Chemical Equations of the reactions involved in the production of Phosphorus
The Actual Chemistry
Urine is between 91% and 96% water containing
There are trace amounts of other organic acids, proteins, carbohydrates, pigments and hormones.
Evaporating urine leaves complex phosphate salts, such as ammonium sodium phosphate [(NH4)NaHPO4)]
On heating the ammonium sodium phosphate decomposes to give sodium phosphite, ammonia and water
On further heating the sodium phosphite reacts with carbon (charcoal) to form white phosphorus, sodium pyrophosphate and carbon monoxide
Adding sand to the final distillation (as did Kunckel, Boyle and Slare) will liberate phosphorus from sodium phosphite.
The other products are sodium silicate and carbon monoxide.
Hennig Brand's process was inefficient because he removed the salt layer that contained most of the phosphate salts. Had he kept the salt layer he would have increased his yield by up to a hundred times more.
The phosphorus produced by distilling urine is white phosphorus. White phosphorus is a waxy, white-yellow, transparent solid. In the presence of oxygen it gives off a green luminescence. It will ignite in the air, reacting with the oxygen to give phosphorus pentoxide (P4O10).
If white phosphorus is heated or left in the sunlight it will change to red phosphorus.
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