White phosphorus glows in the dark

Front of white light occurs on paper

Scientific name: Demonstration of the chemiluminescence of white phosphorous


Elementary Productions: Gas phase chemiluminescence with P4

by mabakken

Pyrophoric yellow phosphorus

by MN's LAB

CHE-1C3Y in Phosphorus!

by CHE1C3Y


Wear lab goggles and gloves. White phosphorus is very toxic and chemically active! Avoid contact of white phosphorous with skin.

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 + 5 O2 → 2 P2O5

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. Take a piece of paper.
  2. Dissolve some white phosphorous in gasoline in a test-tube.
  3. Pour some solution onto the paper. After a few seconds a white glow occurs.

Scientific background

White phosphorous is a very reactive substance. It slowly oxidizes in contact with air and emits white light. This phenomenon is called chemiluminescence. When the solution of white phosphorous in gasoline is placed on paper, gasoline evaporates and white phosphorous reacts with oxygen from air.


Published on 14 September 2015

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