Phosphorous Sun

The white phosphorus burns very vigorously producing white smoke.

Scientific name: White phosphorus burns in oxygen.


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White phosphorus and its oxides are extremely toxic. Be very careful to not get phosphorus on the skin! Avoid inhaling the smoke. Wear eye protection goggles and gloves. This experiment must be performed only in a fume hood.

Always follow general safety recommendations. Please note that conducting chemistry experiments you must comply with the relevant legal procedures in your country.

Reaction formula

P4 + 5O2 → P4O10

Step-by-step instruction

WARNING! This experiment is dangerous! You should NOT perform this at home. ONLY carry out this experiment, if you are a trained chemist, and you understand local safety and legal requirements, which are required to perform such experiments

  1. This experiment must be performed only in a fume hood.
  2. Prepare a round bottom flask.
  3. Fill it with an inert material to prevent overheating of the flask. Sand is a suitable material for this purpose.
  4. Add O2 gas to the flask.
  5. Put a small amount of white phosphorus into the flask.
  6. Heat the steel rod.
  7. The ignition temperature of phosphorous is 34oC. To heat it touch the piece of phosphorous with a hot steel rod.
  8. White phosphorous starts burning forming phosphorus oxide vapor.

Scientific background

White phosphorus is a very reactive substance. The molecule consists of four atoms, connected together with high energy bonds into a tetrahedral structure. It easily combines with oxygen forming phosphorus (V) oxide:

P4 + 5O2 → P4O10


Published on 12 February 2015

  • Fire
  • Heating with fire
  • Explosion
  • Poisoned gas
  • Organic
  • Electricity
  • Solution
  • Oxidation reduction
  • Color change
  • Precipitate
  • Gassing
  • Catalyst