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The Sirius Effect

Phosphate molecules are often found in combination with other elements, such as calcium, sodium, potassium, aluminum and nitrogen. The chemical derivates of phosphoric acid have a wide range of use – from wastewater treatment to detergency, fertilizers, food, and soft drinks.

Sirius International offers various types of Britequest phosphonics and Britephos phosphates suitable for multiple applications. As we followed the regulatory legislation for the past 15 years, we can advise you exactly which phosphorus raw material is optimal for your consumer, industrial or food-grade end product without causing structural changes in the ecosystem and without the associated risks!

Precisely 350 years ago, the German alchemist Hennig Brand was performing experiments on urine. Strangely enough, after drying, he found crystals that glowed in the dark and lit up when burnt. His discovery has changed the world – phosphorus. Today, it not only allows the modern society to use watches with luminous dials, or fill the sky with spectacular fireworks during New Year’s Eve. It’s also actively used in important industries like water recycling and detergent manufacturing.

Phosphorus

Hennig Brand discovered phosphorus in 1669 and, inspired by the fact that the element glows in the dark, he called it “cold fire”. There are three main allotropes of phosphorus: white, red, and black.

White phosphorus is poisonous and can explode when in contact with air. Heating it to 250°C results in forming red phosphorus, which is used in fireworks, safety matches, and pesticides. Black phosphorus lacks significant commercial use due to its less reactive form.

Phosphoric acid

At the same time, phosphoric acid (H3PO4) is used in soft drinks, and the forming of phosphate compounds with different characteristics. Sirius International’s portfolio contains many of these phosphate compounds.

 

For instance, we offer Na3PO4 (Trisodium phosphate or TSP), which can be used as a structure enhancer in food (E339), as a cleansing agent and a water softener. Another example is CaHPO4 (Dicalcium phosphate or DCP) applied in food (E341) as an antioxidant and in some kinds of toothpaste, as a polishing agent.

By nature, these and other phosphates are present as minerals in the human body. Amongst other functions, they are vital to bone strength and are added to healthy diets. No wonder Hennig Brand could isolate phosphorous salts from urine.

Water treatment

Phosphates play a significant role in the treatment of drinking water. They’re used to prevent “red” (from iron) and “black” (from manganese) water; to retard scale formation caused by minerals depositing, and corrosion caused by low pH and/or dissimilar metals in the water distribution system. Sirius Britequest product line contains many examples of phosphorus derivatives that support water softening and metal recovery from (waste) water.

Detergent production

Due to a ban on phosphates in consumer detergents, they’re no longer used in these types of products. However, when it comes to industrial detergents (used for washing cars, factory floors, stables, etc.) and institutional cleansers (used in hotels and hospitals), it’s allowed to use phosphates. To make sure there’s no phosphate spill causing water contamination, these organizations are obliged to collect the wastewater and to apply strict wastewater treatment procedures.

Fertilization

To have optimum growth, development, and reproduction, plants, like humans, need the following primary macronutrients: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). Due to over-cultivation or other environmental factors, soils often don’t contain these nutrients.

Phosphorus encourages the roots’ growth and promotes blooming. It can come from both organic and inorganic sources, and the main source of inorganic phosphorus is phosphate rock.

Handle with care

There’s a high demand for phosphates due to their important role in biological systems. But the other side of the coin is that they can cause nutrient pollution, which boosts the growth of algae in freshwater environments.

The increased production of algae and aquatic plants leads to structural changes in the ecosystem, including the death of the organisms inhabiting it. Therefore, they should be “handled with care”!

 

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