I'm not a chemist.

I understand that phosphorus comes in multiple forms, one of which is white, volatile, and highly toxic. I know that phosphors come in multiple chemical forms, two of which are zinc sulfide and strontium aluminate for glow-in-the-dark products like light sticks, etc, many of which kids use.

In doing some research for a magazine article I'm writing, I read a sentence that said "Chemists have been able to mimic phosphors …" and the word "mimic" leaves me wondering if this was done because original phosphors were (and still can be) from phosphorus?

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    $\begingroup$ Phosphors made out of phosphorus are about as impossible these days as heroin cough syrup or radium beauty powder. $\endgroup$ – Ivan Neretin Aug 29 '17 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ For those voting to close, I think you are making a harsh and unfair decision. This is a perfectly good question from a non-chemist and deserves a good answer not closure. $\endgroup$ – matt_black Aug 30 '17 at 8:42

Phosphers have never been made with phosphorous just like lead pencils have never been made with lead. The words have a common origin but there is very little chemical relationship.

Phosphorus is a Latin name for the planet Venus and, figuratively, for any glowing object. Early chemists in the 17th century used the word to refer to any substance which glowed spontaneously or when heated. They characterised and named several different types of phosphoruses. When the element phosphorus was isolated from urine in the late 17th century it was called “English Phosphorus” or “Phosphorus of Urine” and later simply “Phosphorus”.

The older meaning of “phosphorus” and “phosphor” continued into the 19th century and, in the early 20th century, “phosphor” began to be used with more scientific rigor to refer to a material exhibiting phosphorescence.

Phosphorus (the element) is not phosphorescent; it emits light only insomuch as it spontaneously ignites in air.

Graphite (a.k.a. plumbago) was used as a substitute for black lead hence it was the "lead" in the pencil.


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