Red phosphorous is a flammable material which is converted from white phosphorous through the application of extreme heat. The abstract "Commercial Developments in Red Phosphorous Performance and Stability for Pyrotechnics," published on the Guangzhouy website, states that red phosphorous is considered to be non-toxic when in a pure state and is not soluble in water. Additionally, because red phosphorous is more stable than white, it's preferred for use in a variety of manufactured products.
Red phosphorous is used to make the striking area on a box of safety matches. Mixed with a binder such as polyvinyl alcohol and a sulfide filler, the red phosphorous is applied using a rotogravure printing method. According to the Guangzhoys website, the striking area is composed of 60 to 80 percent red phosphorous, 20 to 40 percent polyvinyl alcohol and 2 percent filler.
Flame Retardant in Plastics
Although red phosphorous is flammable, when it is added to plastics such as polyamides, epoxy resins, polyurethanes and rubbers, it acts as a flame retardant. Polyamides, which form nylon materials, are used as abrasive cleaners, adhesives, and a number of manufacturing applications such as appliance parts, automotive components, electronics, fabric coatings, eyeglass frames, laminates, printer parts and sealing devices. Epoxy resins are used as adhesives in airplanes, bicycles, skis and other products that require strong adhesion. Polyurethane is also used as an adhesive, in addition to its inclusion in the manufacture of clothing, furniture and packaging materials.
Red phosphorous is converted to aluminum phosphide and mixed with other ingredients to make a pesticide that's used in silos. Formed into pellets, the pesticide is placed in silos where tobacco or grain is stored. The pellets react with moisture in the air to create phosphine gas.
Red phosphorous is used to manufacture smoke screens and obscuring products. The red phosphorous is combined with a binder such as butyl or fluorinated rubber. Magnesium is often added to aid combustion. The mixture is formed into pellets, which are loaded into smoke grenades. When the grenades are launched, the red phosphorous ignites and produces heavy white smoke.
A small amount of red phosphorous is also used to make caps for cap pistols or cap guns.
Margaret Morris has a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing from the University of Pittsburgh. She also holds a celebrant certificate from the Celebrant Foundation and Institute. Morris writes for various websites and private clients.