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Inorganic phosphorus is essential for every known form of life. Phosphorus forms many compounds such as metal phosphates, phosphides, oxides, halides, and oxyacids. As phosphates, they play a major role in biological molecules. The phosphorus containing compounds are mainly used as fertilizers. Phosphoric acid is the main source of phosphates used in detergents and other non-fertilizer applications. Calcium phosphate salts help to harden bones. Phosphorus oxoacids (hypophosphorous acid, phosphorous acid and phosphoric acid) are commercially important acids. Phosphoric acid is used to prepare buffer solutions and also used as a catalyst in various reactions.
Pellets of aluminum phosphide, calcium phosphide, or zinc phosphide serve as a source of phosphine. Phosphine is also used in the semiconductor industry. Phosphorus pentahalides are ionic and extremely reactive, and are widely used as halogenating agents in organic chemistry. The trihalides of phosphorus have been thoroughly studied. Phosphorus trichloride is used in the synthesis of organophosphorus compounds and also employed as a reagent in organic synthesis.
Phosphorus pentasulfide is manufactured for the production of other organosulfur compounds, and Phosphorus sesquisulfide is used in the production of matches. The most important phosphorus oxides are phosphoric anhydride, phosphorous anhydride, and phosphorus tetroxide. Phosphoric anhydride is used to remove water from gases and liquid, and is used as drying agent. In organic and inorganic synthesis, it serves as a condensing agent, and it is sometimes used as a component of phosphate glass and as a catalyst. Phosphorus trioxide is widely used in organic synthesis.