Nomenclature And Structure

Of the phosphoric acids formed by the reaction between phosphorus pentoxide and water, orthophosphoric acid (H3PO4) is the simplest and most commonly encountered (8,9). One, two, or all three protons may be replaced by metal ions to form the orthophosphate salts. The acid orthophosphate salts can be dehydrated to form linear chains (polyphosphates) and rings (metaphosphates) wherein phosphate tetrahedrons share oxygen atoms. The polyphosphates have the general formula Mn+2Pn03n+x (M equals one equivalent of hydrogen or metal ion), which approaches the formula of the cyclic metaphosphates as the chain length increases (MP03)n.

Several systems of phosphate nomenclature exist, reflecting the historical changes in the understanding of the phosphate structures. Older names such as pyrophosphate and tripolyphosphate for the smallest of the polyphosphate anions are generally accepted in North American industry and commerce as opposed to the IUPAC names diphosphate and triphosphate, respectively, which are preferred in many other areas of the world. Some of the more common phosphates used in foods are listed in Table 1 along with their formulas.

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