Calcium phosphide

Calcium phosphide
IUPAC name
Calcium phosphide
Other names
Photophor, CP, Polythanol
1305-99-3 YesY
3D model (Jmol) Interactive image
ECHA InfoCard 100.013.766
PubChem 4337964
Molar mass 182.18 g/mol
Appearance red-brown crystalline powder or grey lumps
Density 2.51 g/cm3
Melting point ~1600 °C
R-phrases R15/29 R28 R50
S-phrases (S1/2) S22 S43 S45 S61
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Infobox references

Calcium phosphide (CP, Ca3P2) is a chemical used in incendiary bombs. It has the appearance of red-brown crystalline powder or grey lumps, with melting point of 1600 °C. Its trade name is Photophor for the incendiary use or Polytanol for the use as rodenticide.[1]

It may be formed by reaction of the elements. Metal phosphides have been used as rodenticides. A mixture of food and calcium phosphide is left where the rodents can eat it. The acid in the digestive system of the rodent reacts with the phosphide to generate the toxic gas phosphine. This method of vermin control has possible use in places where rodents immune to many of the common poisons have appeared. Other pesticides similar to calcium phosphide are zinc phosphide and aluminium phosphide.

Calcium phosphide is also used in fireworks, torpedoes, self-igniting naval pyrotechnic flares, and various water-activated ammunition. During the 1920s and 1930s, Charles Kingsford Smith used separate buoyant canisters of calcium carbide and calcium phosphide as naval flares lasting up to ten minutes. It is speculated that calcium phosphidemade by boiling bones in urine, within a closed vesselwas an ingredient of some ancient Greek fire formulas.[2]

Calcium phosphide is a common impurity in calcium carbide, which may cause the resulting phosphine-contaminated acetylene to ignite spontaneously.[3]

Safety considerations

On contact with acids or water, calcium phosphide releases phosphine, which is toxic and can cause explosions in air.

See also


  1. Richard C. Ropp (31 December 2012). Encyclopedia of the Alkaline Earth Compounds. Newnes. pp. 231–. ISBN 978-0-444-59553-9.
  2. Colin McEvedy (1992),The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History, New York: Penguin.
  3. GOV, NOAA Office of Response and Restoration, US. "CALCIUM PHOSPHIDE | CAMEO Chemicals | NOAA". Retrieved 2016-08-26.
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