White phosphorus burns under water

Small explosions occur in a test-tube, when oxygen is bubbled

Scientific name: White phosphorous is oxidized by oxygen gas


Elementary Productions: White Phosphorus

Горение белого фосфора под водой


Wear lab goggles and gloves.

White phosphorus is very toxic and chemically active!

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 → 2P2O5

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. Put a small piece of white phosphorus in the test-tube with water.
  2. Pour some water in a glass and heat it.
  3. Place the test-tube with phosphorus in the glass to melt phosphorus. Periodically carefully shake the test tube (phosphorus mustn't contact with air!). Fully melt phosphorus.
  4. Connect a glass tube to an oxygen source (i.e. balloon with reducing valve).
  5. Place the glass tube into the test-tube so the end of tube is near the surface of phosphorus.
  6. Slowly bubble oxygen through the water.

Scientific background

White phosphorus is a very reactive substance and is easy oxidized by oxygen. It is needed to melt phosphorus to increase its reactivity. When phosphorus reacts with oxygen small explosions occur under water.


Published on 01 April 2015

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