Synthesis of monophosphines directly from white phosphorus

Daniel Scott, Jose Cammarata, Maximilian Schimpf, Robert Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (SciVal)


Monophosphorus compounds are of enormous industrial importance due to the crucial roles they play in applications such as pharmaceuticals, photoinitiators and ligands for catalysis, among many others. White phosphorus (P4) is the key starting material for the preparation of all such chemicals. However, current production depends on indirect and inefficient, multi-step procedures. Here, we report a simple, effective ‘one-pot’ synthesis of a wide range of organic and inorganic monophosphorus species directly from P4. Reduction of P4 using tri-n-butyltin hydride and subsequent treatment with various electrophiles affords compounds that are of key importance for the chemical industry, and it requires only mild conditions and inexpensive, easily handled reagents. Crucially, we also demonstrate facile and efficient recycling and ultimately catalytic use of the tributyltin reagent, thereby avoiding the formation of substantial Sn-containing waste. Accessible, industrially relevant products include the fumigant PH3, the reducing agent hypophosphorous acid and the flame-retardant precursor tetrakis(hydroxymethyl)phosphonium chloride.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)458–464
JournalNature Chemistry
Early online date5 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021


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