Phosphorus-31: The bearer of light

Phosphorus is, in my completely biased opinion, one of the most interesting elements out there.

Why? Well, so so soooo many reasons!

1) It’s colourful. See the naturally occurring isotopes of phosphorus:[1,2] white (P4 – used in incendiary bombs, flares and smoke grenades, red (an amorphous linkage network of P4), violet (different crystalline form – it’s an extensive network of phosphorus norbornane and deltacyclane structures in 3D polymer), and black (graphite like rhombohedral structure).

2) It, like carbon, has a propensity to catenate. I mean, sure, P-P bonds are longer and more labile than C-C, but regardless this leads to some pretty cool catena-phosphorus analogues of carbon compounds!

3) In fact, it has been speculated that it is phosphorus, not the heavier group 14 congeners (Si, Ge, Sn, Pb), that is the closest element to carbon. Not only do C and P have similar electronegativity and reactivity but there is also an isolobal relationship between the prototypical component of organic chemistry (i.e., CR4) and phosphine (PR3), phosphide (PR2-) and phosphonium (PR4+).

4) Phosphorus has many potential bonding modes,[3] and not only can it support positive and negative charges, but it can expand its octet. This means phosphorus is involved in a ton of interesting and diverse chemistry (e.g., biomolecular processes, soaps, surfactants, fertilizers, pesticides, nerve gases, organometallic compounds).

5) It is a good – no, strike that – GREAT, NMR nuclei! For starters, 31P is I = ½ and 100% abundant. Moreover, the wide range of bonding environments lead to a wide spectral width (ranging from -300 to +250 ppm) and resultantly really indicative chemical shifts. Cliff notes – phosphorus is an excellent NMR handle to monitor reactions. It also has an okay gyromagnetic ratio (~40% of 1H, so about 25 MHz on the NMReady-60Pro) but typically has unreliable integrations.

We’re excited to announce that the NMReady-60Pro now acquires both 31P and 31P{1H} NMR spectra. I’ve included an example of 0.5 M tetramethylphosphonium chloride in D2O. You can see a nice doublet in the 4 scan 1H NMR spectrum owing to both 12 equivalent methyl groups split by the central phosphorus atom. The 16 scan 31P{1H} is a singlet and the 64 scan 31P is a tredecatet (with 1 : 12 : 66 : 220 : 495 : 792 : 924 : 792 : 495 : 220 : 66: 12 :1 intensities) where the peaks on the side are not well resolved.

If you have any other questions or want to see how your phosphorus samples look at 25 MHz, please don’t hesitate to contact us!
[1] Corbridge, D. E. C. The Structural Chemistry of Phosphorus; Elsevier: New York, 1974
[2] Palenik, G. J.; Donohue, J. Acta Cryst. 1962, 15, 564
[3]Burford, N.; Ragogna, P. J. Dalton Trans. 2002, 4307-4315