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Zinc Phosphide

Phosphides of zinc were obtained by heating zinc chloride in a stream of phosphine, or by heating zinc with a salt-containing phosphorus on charcoal in a blowpipe flame.

Zn3P2 is obtained by heating an alloy of zinc and phosphorus in a crucible till no more phosphorus vapour is evolved. It can be freed from zinc by ignition in vacuo at 600° C., by treatment with mercury followed by volatilisation in a current of hydrogen at 400° C., or by fuming nitric acid, which dissolves the metal most rapidly. It has also been prepared by (a) strongly heating a mixture of zinc oxide, phosphoric acid, and carbon; (b) heating vaporised zinc and phosphorus in an atmosphere of hydrogen; (c) strongly heating zinc sulphide with a phosphate and carbon; (d) passing phosphorus vapour over melted zinc; (e) heating zinc and phosphorus under pressure.

It has been described as octahedral crystals of density 4.55 at 13° C., as prismatic crystals or needles, as a steel-grey crystalline substance, as compact, lead-coloured (losing its lustre in air), and of density 4.21 at 1.4° C., and as amorphous and pulverulent.

Zn3P2 can be distilled in hydrogen at about 1100° C. Hydrochloric and sulphuric acids act on it with the evolution of phosphine, and nitric acid dissolves it completely. The reaction

Zn3P2 + 6HCl = 3ZnCl2+2PH3

proceeds quantitatively.

When the above phosphide was heated at 400° C. in phosphorus vapour, a brownish mass remained that contained ZnP2 mixed with unaltered Zn3P2. The dark coloured ZnP2 was isolated by hydrochloric acid, which acted much less readily on it than on Zn3P2. It was not crystalline, and its density at 15° C. was 2.97.

Renault obtained fine needles of ZnP2, varying from pale yellow to vermilion-red, by passing phosphorus vapour over zinc, zinc oxide, or zinc carbonate at a low red heat. ZnP2 burns brightly in the air to zinc phosphate, and is rapidly attacked by nitric acid. Sulphuric acid has little or no action upon it. It begins to dissociate at 500° C. into phosphorus and Zn3P2.

The existence of ZnP and Zn3P4 is doubtful.

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