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What color is phosphorus mineral?

Phosphorus is an important mineral that is essential for many functions in the human body. While pure phosphorus is colorless, the mineral phosphorus commonly occurs in nature in several colored forms. The color of phosphorus depends on factors like its allotrope, impurities present, and how it was processed.

Allotropes of Phosphorus

Phosphorus exists in several allotropic forms or allotropes, which refer to different structural modifications of an element. The principal allotropes of phosphorus include:

  • White phosphorus
  • Red phosphorus
  • Black phosphorus
  • Violet phosphorus

Each allotrope has different properties and a characteristic color. The color varies based on the molecular structure and level of impurities present.

White Phosphorus

White phosphorus is the most common allotrope, consisting of tetrahedral P4 molecules. It has a waxy white appearance when pure but can appear pale yellow with impurities.

Red Phosphorus

Red phosphorus has an amorphous polymeric structure made up of networks of P atoms linked with P-P bonds. It has a dark red color resembling brick red.

Black Phosphorus

Black phosphorus has a layered crystal structure of linked six-membered rings stacked together. It has a blackish-gray color with a metallic luster.

Violet Phosphorus

Violet phosphorus consists of an intermediate structure between red and black phosphorus. It has an imperfect layered structure and appears dark violet in color.

Common Phosphorus Minerals

Some naturally occurring phosphorus minerals also exhibit characteristic colors. Here are some of the common colored phosphorus mineral forms:

Mineral Color
Apatite Usually greenish, yellow, brown or violet
Phosphosiderite Brown, yellowish brown or golden brown
Vivianite Deep blue
Lazulite Deep blue
Wardite Yellowish green or greenish yellow

Factors Affecting Phosphorus Color

Several factors can influence the color that phosphorus takes in minerals and other compounds:

Allotropic Form

The specific allotrope of phosphorus present affects its color. For instance, red phosphorus lends a red color to compounds.


Impurities present alongside phosphorus can alter its color. Iron, clay, and organic matter are common impurities.

Particle Size

The particle size of phosphorus affects the absorption and reflection of light, influencing its perceived color.

Processing Method

How phosphorus is processed and the conditions involved impact its final color. For example, white phosphorus slowly changes to red phosphorus when exposed to sunlight.

Oxidation State

The oxidation state of phosphorus can also affect its color. Higher oxidation states tend to be more vividly colored.

Coordination Environment

The atoms/ions surrounding phosphorus in a compound affect the absorption of light and observed color.

Common Colors of Phosphorus

Here is an overview of some of the common colors seen in phosphorus minerals and compounds:


White phosphorus has a waxy white appearance. It glows greenish-white in the dark due to chemiluminescence.


Red phosphorus has a vivid red color resembling brick red. Red phosphorus powder is used in matches and flares.


Black phosphorus is blackish-gray with a metallic sheen. It is the least reactive allotrope of phosphorus.


Phosphorus can appear yellow when impure. Yellow phosphorus is toxic and volatile.


Green colored phosphorus minerals like apatite owe their color to impurities present.


Some phosphorus minerals like lazulite and vivianite are deep blue in color.


Violet phosphorus is a transitional form between red and black phosphorus and has a dark violet hue.


Phosphorus orange is a reddish-orange colored solid used in safety matches. It is a mix of red phosphorus and mercury sulfide.


Phosphorus can take on a brownish tint when impure. Some minerals like phosphosiderite are brown colored.

Uses of Colored Phosphorus

The different colored allotropes and compounds of phosphorus have a number of uses:

  • Red phosphorus is used in matches and flares.
  • White phosphorus is used to make phosphoric acid and fertilizers.
  • Violet phosphorus is used in solar cells.
  • Black phosphorus is used as a semiconductor.
  • Yellow phosphorus is used in pesticides and nerve agents.
  • Phosphorus minerals like apatite are used as gemstones.


In summary, phosphorus can occur in a variety of colored forms depending on factors like allotrope, impurities, particle size, processing method and coordination environment. While pure phosphorus is colorless, common colors seen include white, red, black, yellow, green, blue, violet and brown. The different allotropes and colored compounds have diverse applications ranging from matches to pesticides and electronics.