What is the difference between white phosphorus and red phosphorus?

1 Answer
Sep 26, 2016

For a start white phosphorus is molecular, and red phosphorus is non-molecular.


White phosphorus consists of discrete #P_4# molecules. Moreover, the #P_4# molecule is tetrahedral. This results in low melting point, and low boiling point, and high reactivity, as the bond angles, necessarily #60# #""^@#, are highly constrained in the tetrahedron. You can actually steam distill white (and yellow) phosphorus, and get a greasy distillate of white phosphorus that is fiercely reactive, and must be stored under water.

On the other hand, in red phosphorus, there is linking between phosphorus atoms across the material.