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Phosphorus vs. Phosphoric Acid: What's the Difference?

By Janet White || Published on December 26, 2023
Phosphorus is a reactive, non-metallic chemical element, while phosphoric acid is a derivative acid formed when phosphorus reacts with oxygen and hydrogen.

Key Differences

Phosphorus is a chemical element, symbolized as P, essential for life and used in various industrial applications. Phosphoric acid, H3PO4, is a weak acid derived from phosphorus, commonly used in agriculture and food industry.
In its elemental form, phosphorus is reactive and exists in several allotropic forms, including white and red phosphorus. Phosphoric acid, on the other hand, is a stable compound widely used as an additive and a cleaning agent.
Phosphorus plays a vital role in biological systems, especially in DNA and energy transfer. Phosphoric acid is important in biochemistry too, particularly in the formation of ATP, the energy currency of cells.
Industrially, phosphorus is used in the production of fertilizers, detergents, and pesticides. Phosphoric acid finds extensive use in the preparation of phosphate fertilizers and as a flavoring agent in beverages.
The extraction of phosphorus is primarily from phosphate rocks, while phosphoric acid is produced by reacting sulfuric acid with phosphate rock.

Comparison Chart

Chemical Nature

Non-metallic element
Weak acid


P, various allotropes
H3PO4, liquid


Fertilizers, detergents, pesticides
Food additive, fertilizer, cleaner

Biological Role

Vital in DNA, energy transfer
Part of ATP, cell metabolism

Production Source

Extracted from phosphate rocks
Produced from phosphorus and sulfuric acid

Phosphorus and Phosphoric Acid Definitions


It exists in several allotropic forms, including white and red.
Red phosphorus is used on the striking surface of matchboxes.

Phosphoric Acid

Produced by reacting sulfuric acid with phosphate rock.
The production of phosphoric acid is vital for fertilizer manufacturing.


Phosphorus is a reactive chemical element with the symbol P.
Phosphorus is a key component in plant fertilizers.

Phosphoric Acid

It is derived from phosphorus and used in agriculture and food industry.
Phosphoric acid is a key ingredient in some soft drinks.


Phosphorus is essential in biological processes like DNA synthesis.
The role of phosphorus in DNA structure is fundamental.

Phosphoric Acid

Commonly used as a flavoring agent and a cleaning agent.
Phosphoric acid effectively removes rust and mineral deposits.


Phosphorus is extracted from phosphate rocks for commercial use.
Mining phosphate rocks is the primary source of phosphorus.

Phosphoric Acid

It plays a role in biochemistry, especially in energy transfer.
ATP contains phosphoric acid as part of its structure.


It is used industrially in manufacturing fertilizers and detergents.
The phosphorus industry is critical for agricultural productivity.

Phosphoric Acid

Phosphoric acid is a weak acid with the chemical formula H3PO4.
Phosphoric acid is used to adjust the pH in beverages.


What are the allotropes of phosphorus?

Mainly white and red phosphorus.

Is phosphorus found in living organisms?

Yes, it's essential in biological processes like DNA synthesis.

What role does phosphoric acid play in biochemistry?

It's part of ATP, essential for energy transfer in cells.

What is phosphorus?

A reactive chemical element used in various applications like fertilizers.

Can phosphorus be dangerous?

Yes, especially white phosphorus due to its high reactivity.

What is phosphoric acid used for?

In food industry, agriculture, and as a cleaning agent.

How is phosphoric acid produced industrially?

By reacting sulfuric acid with phosphate rock.

How is phosphoric acid formed?

By reacting phosphorus with oxygen and hydrogen.

How is phosphorus obtained?

Mainly from mining phosphate rocks.

What are industrial uses of phosphorus?

In producing fertilizers, detergents, and pesticides.

Why is phosphorus important in agriculture?

It's a key nutrient for plant growth.

Can phosphoric acid be used in cleaning?

Yes, it's effective in removing rust and mineral deposits.

Is phosphoric acid safe for consumption?

In regulated amounts, it's safe as a food additive.

What is the chemical formula of phosphoric acid?


Are there health concerns with phosphoric acid?

Excessive consumption can lead to health issues like osteoporosis.

What precautions are needed when handling phosphorus?

It requires careful handling due to its reactivity, especially white phosphorus.

What is red phosphorus used for?

In safety matches and certain pyrotechnics.

Can phosphoric acid be replaced in industrial applications?

Alternatives exist, but its efficiency and cost-effectiveness are often unmatched.

How does phosphorus impact the environment?

Overuse in agriculture can lead to water pollution.

Is phosphoric acid found in nature?

Not commonly, it's usually industrially produced.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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