Issue Date: February 12, 2018
Sidestepping white phosphorus
Making phosphorus-containing compounds is not something to be undertaken lightly. Typically, phosphate is reduced to white phosphorus—a pyrophoric and toxic allotrope of the element—which is then reacted with chlorine gas to produce phosphorus trichloride—a base reagent for making phosphorus-containing compounds. Despite the dangerous reagents, this route is used to mass-produce compounds such as the herbicide glyphosate and the battery electrolyte lithium hexafluorophosphate. Now, MIT chemists Michael B. Geeson and Christopher C. . . .
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