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Thursday, 20 March 2014 00:00

The secure conversion of the white phosphorus has been achieved using solar light only

White phosphorus is the raw material for the synthesis of the biggest part of the compounds of phosphorus that are normally used in fertilizers, plastics, pesticides, detergents, semiconductors or military materials

It is the first time that something similar is obtained. The process has been supervised by the lecturer of inorganic chemistry Antonio Romerosa

The research group in Coordination Chemistry, Organometalic and Photochemistry of the University of Almeria and ascribed to the Agrifood Campus of International Excellence ceiA3, supervised by the lecturer of Inorganic Chemistry Antonio Romerosa, has recently achieved the transformation of the white phosphorus into red phosphorus in environmental temperature using as an only energetic source the visible-solar radiation. It has been made within the frame of the project “New Factory of the Future Secure, Intelligence and Sustainable of Demilitarization and Defence- SIXTREMS Technologies”, a programme FEDER-INTERCONECTA of the Innovation and Competitive Ministry that the company EXPAL Disposal & Recovery S.A. supervises.

Up to now, to produce the mentioned transformation it was needed high pressure, temperature higher than 300 degrees and, above all, an absolutely free of oxygen atmosphere. With the discovery of Romerosa and his team, the procedure will be notably simplified: the white phosphorus will be transformed in the air, in an environmental temperature and it will not be necessary to use special systems because it will not bring the same risks than the one nowadays used. The solar radiation is responsible for providing the necessary energy for the process to be produced.

White phosphorus is the prime material for the synthesis of the biggest part of the compounds of phosphorus that are usually used: in fertilizers, plastics, pesticides, detergents, semiconductors or military material. But the white phosphorus has a serious disadvantage; it is very unstable and poisonous and it burns easily in a violent way when it is in presence of air. For this reason, from few years ago, mainly in north-Europeans countries, mainly Germany and also Russia, researchers investigate how it can be transformed in its most stable variety, the red phosphorus. Up to now, no researchers have thought to use the solar light to promote this transformation. Lecturer Romerosa said.  “We tried with visible light of high intensity like the solar and it worked. The process is very simple, but then, effectively, it exists a whole process that it has been carried out well”.

The red phosphorus, much more innocuous, is used to made matches, fertilizers, composted additives for glass or electrical semi drivers, among other uses. Romerosa states: “The difference between one and other is the same as between the carbon and the diamond. Both are phosphorus but they have different characteristics due to their internal structures”,

Results in few months

Due to the requirement expressed by the company of defence EXPAL, the research group headed by the lecturer Antonio Romerosa started working on different alternatives for the safe conversion from white phosphorus into red. The company is interested in the transformation of white phosphorus that comes from demilitarization of old weapons because the red phosphorus can be accumulated and transported with a less exigent security than the white ones.

The research group of the University of Almeria started his research work in this line last September and some months later it will obtain its the firsts results. Preliminaries, as his principal researcher points out, but very positives: “The most difficult aspect has been achieved yet, the transformation of the white phosphorus into red using a safe and economical procedure, but up to now all has been made in the laboratory. The project will end the next year and during this period we have to adjust a lot of parameters and finalize to know better the process for the company has all the necessary information to be able to implement it at an industrial level”, said Romerosa.

In spite of the initial success, this lecturer of Inorganic Chemistry notes that the group that he supervises is composed of very few researchers and they can’t develop all the research lines that they would think of: “We have to decide among one of them and sometimes we get right and others we get something wrong. This time we have got right. It has been a question of experience and luck too”.

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