Preparation, properties and uses of orthophospheric acid

Phosphoric acid, also known as orthophosphoric acid orphosphoric(V) acid, is a mineral (inorganic) acid having thechemical formula H3PO4. Orthophosphoric acid molecules can combine with themselves to form a variety of compounds which are also referred to as phosphoric acids, but in a more general way. The term phosphoric acidcan also refer to a chemical or reagent consisting of phosphoric acids, usually orthophosphoric acid.

Pure anhydrous phosphoric acid is a white solid that melts at 42.35 °C to form a colorless, viscous liquid.

Most people and even chemists refer to orthophosphoric acid as phosphoric acid, which is the IUPAC name for this compound. The prefix ortho is used to distinguish the acid from other phosphoric acids, called polyphosphoric acids two(ii) . Orthophosphoric acid is a non-toxic, inorganic, rather weak triprotic acid, which, when pure, is a solid at room temperature and pressure. The chemical structure of orthophosphoric acid is shown above in the data table. Orthophosphoric acid is a very polar molecule; therefore it is highly soluble in water. The oxidation state of phosphorus(P) in ortho- and other phosphoric acids is +5; the oxidation state of all the oxygen atoms (O) is −2 and all the hydrogenatoms (H) is +1. Triprotic means that an orthophosphoric acid molecule can dissociate up to three times, giving up an H+ each time, which typically combines with a water molecule, H2O, as shown in these reactions:

H3PO4(s) + H2O(l) is in equilibrium with H3O+(aq) + H2PO4(aq) Ka1= 7.25×10−3
H2PO4(aq)+ H2O(l) is in equilibrium with H3O+(aq) + HPO42−(aq) Ka2= 6.31×10−8
HPO42−(aq)+ H2O(l) is in equilibrium with H3O+(aq) + PO43−(aq) Ka3= 3.98×10−13

The anion after the first dissociation, H2PO4, is thedihydrogen phosphate anion. The anion after the second dissociation, HPO42−, is the hydrogen phosphate anion. The anion after the third dissociation, PO43−, is the phosphateor orthophosphate anion. For each of the dissociation reactions shown above, there is a separate acid dissociation constant, called Ka1, Ka2, and Ka3 given at 25 °C. Associated with these three dissociation constants are corresponding pKa1=2.12 , pKa2=7.21 , and pKa3=12.67 values at 25 °C. Even though all three hydrogen (H ) atoms are equivalent on an orthophosphoric acid molecule, the successive Ka values differ since it is energetically less favorable to lose another H+ if one (or more) has already been lost and the molecule/ion is more negatively-charged.

Because the triprotic dissociation of orthophosphoric acid, the fact that its conjugate bases (the phosphates mentioned above) cover a wide pH range, and, because phosphoric acid/phosphate solutionsare, in general, non-toxic, mixtures of these types of phosphates are often used as buffering agents or to make buffer solutions, where the desired pH depends on the proportions of the phosphates in the mixtures. Similarly, the non-toxic, anion salts of triprotic organic citric acid are also often used to make buffers. Phosphates are found pervasively in biology, especially in the compounds derived from phosphorylated sugars, such as DNA, RNA, and adenosine triphosphate (ATP). There is a separate article on phosphate as an anion or its salts.

Upon heating orthophosphoric acid, condensation of the phosphoric units can be induced by driving off the water formed from condensation. When one molecule of water has been removed for each two molecules of phosphoric acid, the result is pyrophosphoric acid (H4P2O7). When an average of one molecule of water per phosphoric unit has been driven off, the resulting substance is a glassy solid having an empirical formula of HPO3 and is called metaphosphoric acid. Metaphosphoric acid is a singly anhydrous version of orthophosphoic acid and is sometimes used as a water- or moisture-absorbing reagent. Further dehydrating is very difficult, and can be accomplished only by means of an extremely strong desiccant (and not by heating alone). It produces phosphoric anhydride, which has an empirical formula P2O5, although an actual molecule has a chemical formula of P4O10. Phosphoric anhydride is a solid, which is very strongly moisture-absorbing and is used as a desiccant.

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