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Phosphoric acid is used primarily in the manufacture of fertilizers, detergents, and pharmaceuticals. In the steel industry, it is used to clean and rust-proof the product. It is also used as a flavoring agent in carbonated beverages (read the ingredients list on a can of Coca-Cola), beer, jams and jellies, and cheeses. In foods, phosphoric acid provides a tart, acidic flavor.
In the manufacture of detergents, phosphoric acid is used to produce water softeners. Water softeners remove Ca2+ and Mg2+ions from "hard" water. If not removed, these hard-water ions react with soap and form insoluble deposits that cling to laundry and the washing machine. Phosphates produced from phosphoric acid are used extensively as water softeners (builders) in detergents. The most widely used phosphorus compound in solid detergent mixtures is sodium tripolyphosphate, Na5P3O10. As a water softener, sodium tripolyphosphate binds to Ca2+ and Mg2+, forming soluble chemical species, called complexes or chelates. These complexes prevent the Ca2+ and Mg2+ from reacting with soap and forming deposits.
Most phosphoric acid is used in the production of fertilizers. Phosphorus is one of the elements essential for plant growth. Organic phosphates are the compounds which provide the energy for most of the chemical reactions that occur in living cells. Therefore, enriching soils with phosphate fertilizers enhances plant growth.
Increasing the phosphate concentration in surface waters also enhances the growth of aquatic plant life. Run-off from fertilized farm lands can stimulate plant growth in lakes and streams. Waste water that contains phosphates from detergents can have the same effect. Lakes that are rich in plant nutrients suffer from accelerated eutrophication. When the lush aquatic plant growth in a nutrient-rich lake dies, the decomposition of the dead plant material consumes dissolved oxygen. This consumption reduces the level of dissolved oxygen to a point where it is insufficient to support animal life. To reduce the threat of lake eutrophication, many localities have banned the use of phosphates in detergents. In some cases, the phosphates have been replaced by carbonates. In others, new detergents have been developed that do not react with the Ca2+ and Mg2+ ions of hard water.(1)
Phosphoric acid is used in a variety of applications, including an etchant in the manufacturing of pure semiconductor chemicals and TFT-LCD, metal surface treatment, phosphates, food additives and beverages, wastewater treatment, refractories, catalysts, and so on.
Chemical wet etchant is used in the etching process of the TFT-LCD manufacturing. There are two etching processes : a chemical wet-etching process, in which acids and other chemical solutions are used ; and a chemical dry-etching process, in which gas plasma is used.
1) In wet-etching, a chemical solution(etchant) is used to etch a thin-film. An acid mixture of phosphoric acid, hydrochloric acid, and nitric acid is used as an etchant. This etching solution(etchant) dissolves the portions of the thin-film that are not covered by photoresist. The photoresist forms a protective film on top of the thin film on which patterns are to be formed.
2) In chemical dry-etching, plasma is used to generate gas radicals, such as fluorine radicals, in order to etch the thin-film. Plasma removes any portion of the thin-film that is not covered by photoresist. TFT-LCDs are used in monitor, cellular phone, navigator, education game, advertises and TV, and so on.
Phosphoric acid removes the oxide scale on sheet steel by acid treatment. Phosphoric acid, a good pickling agent, leaves the steel coated with a thin film of iron phosphates. Phosphoric acid-nitricacid solutions are used for chemical polishing of aluminum prior to anodizing. The mixture selectively attacks the metal surface protrusions, resulting in an overall leveling effect. Some copper and brass are also chemically polished with phosphoric acid. Aluminum, steel(including stainless), and other metals are electropolished in relatively high concentration(50~80%) phosphoric acid solutions containing sulfuric and chromic acids as well as other additives.
Phosphoric acid in dilute solution is non-toxic and has a pleasingly sour taste, similar to common food acids as citric and acetic acid. For this reason, phosphoric acid is used widely in cola as a tart flavoring agent. Other food applications include its use as a general protein acidulant, buffering agent in jam and jelly preparation, nutrient and buffer in antibiotic manufacture, acid cleaner for dairy equipment, and purification reagent in sugar refining.
Phosphoric acid is used as a bonding agent in various refractory products, particularly alumina, but also magnesia, zirconia, and carbon refractories. Phosphate-bonded refractories typically show improved green strength, load-bearing properties, high temperature stability, and good abrasion resistance.
Catalytic applications of phosphoric acid make use of its acidic and dehydrating properties. Typically catalytic uses of phosphoric acid include production of gasoline and nylon.
Miscellaneous uses for phosphoric acid are numerous, wastewater treatment, encompassing wood and fabric flameproofing,
boiler cleaning, opacity control in glass manufacture, textile dyeing, rubber latex coagulation, lithographic engraving, dental cements, and so on.(2)