Orthophosphoric Acid - H3PO4 (Phosphoric Acid)

What is Phosphoric Acid?

Orthophosphoric acid refers to phosphoric acid. Phosphoric Acid is a weak acid with chemical formula H3PO4.

Phosphoric Acid is an acid-containing four atoms of oxygen, one atom of phosphorus, and three atoms of hydrogen. It is also known as phosphoric(V) acid or orthophosphoric acid. It is present in teeth and bone and helps in metabolic processes. In its liquid form, it appears as a clear, colorless solution and in its solid form, it appears as transparent, crystalline solid.

As a sequestering agent, it helps in the binding of divalent cations. It is widely used in orthodontics and dentistry. Phosphoric acid is important in biogeochemistry and biochemistry. It is tribasic acid. The three regions are the region where pH is equal to pK, the region where pH is equal to 4.7 and the region where pH is equal to 9.8.

Structure of Phosphoric Acid (H3PO4)

Phosphoric Acid structure

Structure of phosphoric acid

Preparation of Phosphoric acid

It can be conveniently prepared by dissolving P2O5 in water followed by boiling the solution to form a thick syrup.

P2O5 + 3H2O → 2H2PO4

Red phosphorus when heated with conc.HNO3 yields orthophosphoric acid.

P + 5HNO3 → H3PO4 + H2O + 5NO2

On a large scale, it is prepared by treating phosphorite rock with dil.H2SO4.

Ca3(PO4)2 + 3H2SO4 → 3CaSO4 + 2H3PO4

Synthesis of Phosphoric Acid – H3PO

  • Phosphoric acid may be obtained by adding sulfuric acid to the phosphate of baryta suspended in water.
  • The sulfuric acid unites with the baryta forming an insoluble salt which precipitates while the phosphoric acid remains in solution.
  • When phosphorus is gradually added to nitric acid, phosphoric acid is generated and remains mingled with the residual nitric acid.

Physical Properties of Phosphoric Acid (H3PO4)

  1. Phosphoric acid is an odorless, colorless, viscous liquid, possessing in a high degree the property of reddening litmus. It cannot be obtained free from water.
  2. When exposed to a red heat and afterward cooled it forms a transparent brittle glass.
  3. This fusion should be effected in a platinum crucible since phosphoric acid when heated to redness attacks either glass or porcelain.
  4. The acid if examined after this exposure to heat is found although its composition remains the same to have acquired new properties.
  5. On this account the name of paraphosphoric has been given to it; while the term phosphoric is applied to designate the acid in the state first described.
  6. Nitrate of silver yields with phosphoric acid a yellow precipitate with paraphosphoric acid a white one. Albumen is coagulated by the latter but not by the former.
H3PO4 Phosphoric Acid
Molecular Weight/ Molar Mass 97.994 g/mol
Density 1.88 g/cm³
Boiling Point 158 °C
Melting Point 42.35 °C

Chemical Properties of Phosphoric Acid (H3PO4)

  • Phosphoric acid is a deliquescent solid, generally encountered as a viscous aqueous solution.
  • It is weakly acidic, with three possible sequential deprotonation steps, forming phosphates.
  • Like carboxylic acids, phosphoric acid can dimerize via a dehydration reaction to form phospho anhydrides.
  • Phosphoric acid is referred to as being tribasic, in that it has three possible dissociation steps.
  • As a result mono and disodium and potassium salts of phosphoric acid are routinely used as pH buffers.
  • One of the most important reactions of phosphoric acid and its derivatives is multimerization.
  • As with carboxylic acids, two phosphoric acid molecules may combine with the loss of water to form a diphosphate ester also referred to as pyrophosphate.
  • However, as phosphoric acid has further -OH functionalities triphosphates may also be formed.
  • Salts of phosphoric acid are solid and many are relatively water-insoluble unless a strong mineral acid is present.

Basicity of Orthophosphoric Acid (H3PO4)

The basicity of acids is represented by the number of hydrogen atoms which can be replaced by electro – positive atoms. Basicity of an acid is the number of hydrogen ions that can be produced by the ionisation of one molecule of the acid in its aqueous solution.

An acid which produces three hydrogen or hydronium ions by the ionisation of one molecule of the acid, is called a tribasic acid or triprotic acid. For example, H3PO4 and H3PO3 are tribasic acids.

Acid Basicity
Hypophosphorous acid (H3PO2) Oxidation number of Phosphorus = +1

Basicity = 1

Phosphorus acid (H3PO3) Oxidation number of Phosphorus = +3

Basicity = 2

Orthophosphoric acid (H3PO4) Oxidation number of Phosphorus = +5

Basicity = 3

Pyrophosphoric acid (H4P2O7) Oxidation number of Phosphorus = +5

Basicity = 4

Metaphosphoric acid (HPO3) Oxidation number of Phosphorus = +5

Basicity = 1

Uses of Phosphoric Acid (H3PO4)

Phosphoric acid (H3PO4) has many essential applications, in particular in the manufacture of fertilizers. Many acids are derived from phosphate rocks by a wet process based on the reaction between phosphate rocks and acid solutions.1 This acid (H3PO4) is a medium-strong acid, but is also highly corrosive to ferrous or ferrous alloys.

  • It is used as fertilizers – around 90% of phosphoric acid produced is used as fertilizers
  • It is used in as a supplement feed for pigs, cattle, poultry
  • It is used in skincare products, cosmetics as a pH adjuster
  • It is used in brewing, food and dairy industries as a sanitizing agent
  • It is used in beverages and food like jam and cola to acidify them
  • It is used to remove rust from the surface to metals

Health Hazard

Phosphoric acid is less corrosive and hazardous than is concentrated sulfuric or nitric acid. Its concentrated solutions are irritants to the skin and mucous membranes. The vapors contain P2O5 fumes can cause irritation to the throat and coughing but could be tolerated at <10mg/m3.

Phosphoric acid is a noncombustible substance in both solid and liquid forms. It may be fatal if inhaled. Fumes from fires are irritating to respiratory passages, eyes, skin, and may contain phosphine, phosphoric acid, hydrogen chloride.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

What is orthophosphoric acid used for?

Phosphoric acid, also called orthophosphoric acid, (H3PO4), the most important oxygen acid of phosphorus, used to make phosphate salts for fertilizers. This is also used in dental cements, in albumin derivatives preparation and in the sugar and textile industries.

What happens when orthophosphoric acid is heated?

The orthophosphoric anhydrous acid is a white, crystalline solid which melts at 42.35 ° C. If phosphoric acid is heated to temperatures of around 200 ° C, there will be a loss of constituent oxygen. Dehydration produces a sequence of acids, ranging from pyrophosphoric acid, H4P2O7, to metaphosphoric acid

Why is phosphoric acid in Coke?

Phosphoric acid is a crystalline liquid which is colourless and odorless. It gives a tangy taste to soft drinks, and prevents mold and bacteria from developing, which can easily multiply in a sugar solution. Much of the acidity of soda also comes from the phosphoric acid. Becoming phosphoric acid it is then processed again.

What happens when orthophosphoric acid is heated?

The orthophosphoric anhydrous acid is a white, crystalline solid which melts at 42.35 ° C. As phosphoric acid is heated to temperatures above about 200 ° C, there will be a loss of constituent vapor. Dehydration produces a sequence of acids, ranging from pyrophosphoric acid, H4P2O7, to metaphosphoric acid, (H3PO4) n.

What are the side effects of orthophosphoric acid?

Ingestion: Lips, tongue, throat and stomach will burn. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, cramps in the stomach and diarrhea. Might result in permanent damage. Long-Term ( Chronic) Effects of exposure: At low concentrations: can cause raw, red, cracking skin (dermatitis) after skin contact.

Is phosphoric acid strong?

While phosphoric acid is very acidic, it is apparent that it is, in general, weak acid due to lack of full dissociation in water; 1 M solution of strong acid will be about 0 (0 for monoprotic bacteria, probably less for diprotic due to additional hydrogen ion).

Does phosphoric acid dissolve rust?

Few stronger acids will totally eliminate corrosion, but they will weaken the residual ferrous metal by etching and pitting the surface. Phosphoric acid is one of the few acids that can kill rust without oxidizing or destroying the iron beneath.

Is phosphoric acid a disinfectant?

Bowl Cleanse is a phosphoric acid solution that supplies disinfectant treatment for the removal of certain harmful bacteria present in toilet bowls and urinals. The 25% phosphoric acid solution quickly extracts mineral particles in toilets without destroying plumbing.

Also Read:

Learn more about the chemical behavior and importance of H3PO4 with the expert faculties at BYJU’S – India’s largest education company.

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