Sustainable Production of Reduced Phosphorus Compounds: Mechanochemical Hydride Phosphorylation Using Condensed Phosphates as a Route to Phosphite

09 November 2021, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Phosphorus removal and recovery technologies have been implemented to tackle the anthropogenic eutrophication caused by phosphate runoff into waterways. In pursuit of a better utilization of the phosphates recovered from waste water treatment, we herein report that condensed phosphates can be employed to phosphorylate hydride reagents under solvent-free mechanochemical conditions to furnish phosphite (HPO3)2−, a versatile chemical with phosphorus in the +3 oxidation state. Hydride phosphorylation, as a two-electron one-proton reduction of a main group element oxide, constitutes a direct parallel with CO2 reduction to formate. Using potassium hydride as the hydride source, sodium trimetaphosphate (Na3P3O9 ), triphosphate (Na5P3O10), and pyrophosphate (Na4P2O7) engendered phosphite in 44, 58, and 44% yields based on total P content, respectively, under their optimal conditions. Formation of overreduced products including hypophosphite (H2PO2−) was identified as a competing process, and mechanistic investigation revealed that hydride attack on in situ generated phosphorylated phosphite species is a potent pathway for overreduction. The phosphite generated from our method could be easily isolated in the form of barium phosphite, a useful intermediate for production of phosphorous acid. This method circumvents the need to pass through white phosphorus (P4) as a high energy intermediate and mitigates involvement of environmentally hazardous chemicals. A bioproduced polyphosphate from baker’s yeast was demonstrated to be a viable starting material for the production of phosphite. This example demonstrates the possibility of accessing reduced phosphorus compounds in a more sustainable manner, and more importantly, closing the modern phosphorus cycle.


condensed phosphates
phosphorus recovery and recycling
phosphorus sustainability
green chemistry

Supplementary materials

Supporting Information
Description of synthetic procedures and characterization data.


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