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Difference between Nitrogen and Phosphorus

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  • Last Updated : 30 Nov, 2022
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Dinitrogen was discovered by Daniel Rutherford, the Scottish physicist in 1772. He obtained gas by separating carbon dioxide from the products of breathing of small animals in closed space. Lavoisier (1775) recognized it as an element and named it azote (a Geek word meaning without life). The present name nitrogen was arrived by Chaptal (1828), the French chemist, from niter (KNO3), a well-known nitrogenous compound.

Nitrogen is the first member of group 15 in the periodic table. Its atomic number is seven. Therefore, its electronic configuration is 1s2, 2s2, and 2p3. It has five electrons in the valence shell but the maximum number of covalent bonds formed by the nitrogen is four as in the NH4+ ion. This is because nitrogen has no d-orbitals in the valence shell to which electrons can be excited.

Chemical Properties

  1. Density: 1.25*10-3
  2. Melting Point: -210 °C
  3. Boiling Point: -195.8 °C
  4. Isotopes: 4
  5. Electronic shell: [He] 2s22p3
  6. The energy of the first ionization: 1402 kJ.mol -1
  7. The energy of the second ionization: 2856 kJ.mol -1

Uses of Nitrogen

  1. Dilutes the effect of oxygen in the air.
  2. Used to make high temp thermometers.
  3. Used for storage of canned foods.
  4. Used in Electric Bulbs.
  5. Used for Welding metals.


Phosphorous was first discovered by the alchemist of Brand of Hamburg in 1669. He obtained it by distilling the concentrated urine with carbon and sand. It glowed in the dark and was therefore called phosphorus meaning light-bearing. It was, however, Schelle who developed the method of its preparation on a large scale from bone ash in 1881 but its elementary nature was shown by Lavoisier in 1777.

Phosphorus is the second member of group 15. Its atomic number is 15. Its atomic number is 15. Therefore, its electronic configuration is 1s22s22p63s23p3. 

Phosphorus exists in Four Allotrope Forms:

  1. White Phosphorus
  2. Red Phosphorus
  3. Black Phosphorus
  4. Violet Phosphorus

Physical Properties of White Phosphorus

  1. It is a soft waxy solid and can be cut with a knife.
  2. Not soluble in water but soluble in carbon disulfide.
  3. Poisonous in nature.
  4. Low ignition Temperature

Chemical Properties of White Phosphorus

  1. Phosphorus undergoes combustion when it comes in contact with atmospheric air.
  2. Due to low ignition temperature, white phosphorus easily catches fire.
  3. white phosphorus dissolves in caustic alkalis.

Physical Properties of Red Phosphorus

  1. It is a dark red powder with a density of 2.2.
  2. It is odorless and non-poisonous.
  3. It is insoluble in both water and carbon disulfide.

Chemical Properties of Red Phosphorus

  1. It is less reactive compared to white phosphorus.
  2. It does not glow in the dark.
  3. It does not react with caustic soda.
  4. It combines with halogens, sulfur, and metals when heated.

Properties of Black Phosphorus

  1. Has high density.
  2. Has a sharp melting point.
  3. It is a good conductor of heat and electricity.
  4. It is a stable form of Phosphorus. 

Uses of Phosphorus

  1. Used in the production of smoke screens.
  2. White phosphorus is used to make rat poison.
  3. Red phosphorus is used in the manufacture of matches.

Following is a table of differences between both Nitrogen and Phosphorous:

S. No.




1. Nature Diatomic gas (N2) Tetratomic molecular solid (P4)
2. Tendency to form complexes No Forms complex due to the availability of vacant orbitals
3. Allotropic Nature Does not show allotropy Shows allotropy
4. Hydrogen Bonding Forms H-bonding due to its small size and high electronegativity Does not form H-bonding due to its low electronegativity value and large size.
5. Nature of hydrides Forms stable hydride (NH3), which is basic Forms unstable hydride (PH3), which is neutral
6. Nature of trihalides NF3 is stable: other halides are unstable Forms stable hydrides
7. Formation of pentahalides Does not form NCl5 due to the absence of d-orbitals Forms stable PCl5 due to availability of vacant d-orbitals

Frequently Asked Questions on Nitrogen and Phosphorous

Question 1: Name some Compounds of Phosphorus with their formulas.


The Compounds of Phosphorus are:

  1. Phosphine (PH3)
  2. Phosphorus Trichloride (PCl3)
  3. Phosphorus Pentachloride (PCL5)

Question 2: Name the oxoacids of Phosphorus.


The Oxoacids of Phosphorus are

  1. Hypophosphorus acid. (H3PO2)
  2. Orthophosphorus acid. (H3PO3)
  3. Pyrophosphorus acid. (H4P2O5)
  4. Hypophosphoric acid. (H4P2O6)
  5. Orthophosphoric acid. (H3PO4)
  6. Pyrophosphoric acid. (H4P2O7)

Question 3: Name a few physical properties of Nitrogen.


Some physical properties of Nitrogen are:

  1. Nature: It is colorless and odourless and tasteless gas.
  2. Solubility: It is slightly soluble in water.
  3. Density: Nitrogen is slightly lighter than atmospheric air.

Question 4: Name all the oxides of Nitrogen along with their formulas.


The oxides of Nitrogen are:

  1. Dinitrogen oxide (N2O)
  2. Nitrogen monoxide (NO)
  3. Dinitrogen trioxide (N2O3)
  4. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
  5. Dinitrogen tetroxide (N2O4)

Question 5: Name a few uses of Ammonia.


The uses of Ammonia are:

  1. It is used to make fertilizers.
  2. It is used in the manufacture of Nitric acid.
  3. It is used as a cleansing agent.
  4. Can be used as refrigerant.
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