Arsine (IUPAC name: arsane) is an inorganic compound with the formula AsH3. This flammable, pyrophoric, and highly toxic pnictogen hydride gas is one of the simplest compounds of arsenic. Despite its lethality, it finds some applications in the semiconductor industry and for the synthesis of organoarsenic compounds. The term arsine is commonly used to describe a class of organoarsenic compounds of the formula AsH3−xRx, where R = aryl or alkyl. For example, As(C6H5)3, called triphenylarsine, is referred to as "an arsine".
3D model (JSmol)
CompTox Dashboard (EPA)
|Molar mass||77.9454 g/mol|
|Density||4.93 g/l, gas; 1.640 g/mL (−64 °C)|
|Melting point||−111.2 °C (−168.2 °F; 162.0 K)|
|Boiling point||−62.5 °C (−80.5 °F; 210.7 K)|
|0.2 g/100 mL (20 °C)|
0.07 g/100 mL (25 °C)
|Vapor pressure||14.9 atm|
Std enthalpy of
|Main hazards||Explosive, flammable, potential occupational carcinogen|
|Safety data sheet||See: data page|
|GHS Signal word||Danger|
|H220, H330, H373, H400, H410|
|P210, P260, P271, P273, P284, P304+340, P310, P314, P320, P377, P381, P391, P403, P403+233, P405, P501|
|NFPA 704 (fire diamond)|
|Flash point||−62 °C (−80 °F; 211 K)|
|Lethal dose or concentration (LD, LC):|
LD50 (median dose)
|2.5 mg/kg (intravenous)|
LC50 (median concentration)
LCLo (lowest published)
|NIOSH (US health exposure limits):|
|TWA 0.05 ppm (0.2 mg/m3)|
|C 0.002 mg/m3 [15-minute]|
IDLH (Immediate danger)
|Ammonia; phosphine; stibine; bismuthine|
|Supplementary data page|
|Refractive index (n),|
Dielectric constant (εr), etc.
|UV, IR, NMR, MS|
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
|what is ?)(|
At its standard state, arsine is a colorless, denser-than-air gas that is slightly soluble in water (20% at 20 °C) and in many organic solvents as well. Whereas arsine itself is odorless, owing to its oxidation by air, it is possible to smell a slight garlic or fish-like scent when the compound is present above 0.5 ppm. This compound is kinetically stable: at room temperature it decomposes only slowly. At temperatures of ca. 230 °C, decomposition to arsenic and hydrogen is sufficiently rapid to be the basis of the Marsh Test (see below). Similar to stibine, the decomposition of arsine is autocatalytic, as the arsenic freed during the reaction acts as a catalyst for the same reaction. Several other factors, such as humidity, presence of light and certain catalysts (namely alumina) facilitate the rate of decomposition.
Discovery and synthesisEdit
AsH3 is generally prepared by the reaction of As3+ sources with H− equivalents.
- 4 AsCl3 + 3 NaBH4 → 4 AsH3 + 3 NaCl + 3 BCl3
- Zn3As2 + 6 H+ → 2 AsH3 + 3 Zn2+
- Na3As + 3 HBr → AsH3 + 3 NaBr
Typical for a heavy hydride (e.g., SbH3, H2Te, SnH4), AsH3 is unstable with respect to its elements. In other words, AsH3 is stable kinetically but not thermodynamically.
- 2 AsH3 → 3 H2 + 2 As
This decomposition reaction is the basis of the Marsh Test described below, which detects the elemental As.
Continuing the analogy to SbH3, AsH3 is readily oxidized by concentrated O2 or the dilute O2 concentration in air:
- 2 AsH3 + 3 O2 → As2O3 + 3 H2O
Precursor to metallic derivativesEdit
AsH3 is used as a precursor to metal complexes of "naked" (or "nearly naked") As. Illustrative is the dimanganese species [(C5H5)Mn(CO)2]2AsH, wherein the Mn2AsH core is planar.
A characteristic test for arsenic involves the reaction of AsH3 with Ag+, called the Gutzeit test for arsenic. Although this test has become obsolete in analytical chemistry, the underlying reactions further illustrate the affinity of AsH3 for "soft" metal cations. In the Gutzeit test, AsH3 is generated by reduction of aqueous arsenic compounds, typically arsenites, with Zn in the presence of H2SO4. The evolved gaseous AsH3 is then exposed to AgNO3 either as powder or as a solution. With solid AgNO3, AsH3 reacts to produce yellow Ag4AsNO3, whereas AsH3 reacts with a solution of AgNO3 to give black Ag3As.
The acidic properties of the As–H bond are often exploited. Thus, AsH3 can be deprotonated:
- AsH3 + NaNH2 → NaAsH2 + NH3
Upon reaction with the aluminium trialkyls, AsH3 gives the trimeric [R2AlAsH2]3, where R = (CH3)3C. This reaction is relevant to the mechanism by which GaAs forms from AsH3 (see below).
Reaction with halogen compoundsEdit
In contrast to the behavior of PH3, AsH3 does not form stable chains, although H2As–AsH2 and even H2As–As(H)–AsH2 have been detected. The diarsine is unstable above −100 °C.
AsH3 is used in the synthesis of semiconducting materials related to microelectronics and solid-state lasers. Related to phosphorus, arsenic is an n-dopant for silicon and germanium. More importantly, AsH3 is used to make the semiconductor GaAs by chemical vapor deposition (CVD) at 700–900 °C:
- Ga(CH3)3 + AsH3 → GaAs + 3 CH4
For microelectronic applications, arsine can be provided via a sub-atmospheric gas source. In this type of gas package, the arsine is adsorbed on a solid microporous adsorbent inside a gas cylinder. This method allows the gas to be stored without pressure, significantly reducing the risk of an arsine gas leak from the cylinder. With this apparatus, arsine is obtained by applying vacuum to the gas cylinder valve outlet. For semiconductor manufacturing, this method is feasible, as processes such as ion implantation operate under high vacuum.
Since before WWII AsH3 was proposed as a possible chemical warfare weapon. The gas is colorless, almost odorless, and 2.5 times denser than air, as required for a blanketing effect sought in chemical warfare. It is also lethal in concentrations far lower than those required to smell its garlic-like scent. In spite of these characteristics, arsine was never officially used as a weapon, because of its high flammability and its lower efficacy when compared to the non-flammable alternative phosgene. On the other hand, several organic compounds based on arsine, such as lewisite (β-chlorovinyldichloroarsine), adamsite (diphenylaminechloroarsine), Clark 1 (diphenylchloroarsine) and Clark 2 (diphenylcyanoarsine) have been effectively developed for use in chemical warfare.
Forensic science and the Marsh testEdit
AsH3 is also well known in forensic science because it is a chemical intermediate in the detection of arsenic poisoning. The old (but extremely sensitive) Marsh test generates AsH3 in the presence of arsenic. This procedure, published in 1836 by James Marsh, is based upon treating an As-containing sample of a victim's body (typically the stomach contents) with As-free zinc and dilute sulfuric acid: if the sample contains arsenic, gaseous arsine will form. The gas is swept into a glass tube and decomposed by means of heating around 250–300 °C. The presence of As is indicated by formation of a deposit in the heated part of the equipment. On the other hand, the appearance of a black mirror deposit in the cool part of the equipment indicates the presence of antimony (the highly unstable SbH3 decomposes even at low temperatures).
The Marsh test was widely used by the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th; nowadays more sophisticated techniques such as atomic spectroscopy, inductively coupled plasma, and x-ray fluorescence analysis are employed in the forensic field. Though neutron activation analysis was used to detect trace levels of arsenic in the mid 20th century, it has since fallen out of use in modern forensics.
The toxicity of arsine is distinct from that of other arsenic compounds. The main route of exposure is by inhalation, although poisoning after skin contact has also been described. Arsine attacks hemoglobin in the red blood cells, causing them to be destroyed by the body.
The first signs of exposure, which can take several hours to become apparent, are headaches, vertigo, and nausea, followed by the symptoms of haemolytic anaemia (high levels of unconjugated bilirubin), haemoglobinuria and nephropathy. In severe cases, the damage to the kidneys can be long-lasting.
Exposure to arsine concentrations of 250 ppm is rapidly fatal: concentrations of 25–30 ppm are fatal for 30 min exposure, and concentrations of 10 ppm can be fatal at longer exposure times. Symptoms of poisoning appear after exposure to concentrations of 0.5 ppm. There is little information on the chronic toxicity of arsine, although it is reasonable to assume that, in common with other arsenic compounds, a long-term exposure could lead to arsenicosis.
It is classified as an extremely hazardous substance in the United States as defined in Section 302 of the U.S. Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (42 U.S.C. 11002), and is subject to strict reporting requirements by facilities which produce, store, or use it in significant quantities.
Occupational exposure limitsEdit
|Argentina||Confirmed human carcinogen|
|Australia||TWA 0.05 ppm (0.16 mg/m3)|
|Belgium||TWA 0.05 ppm (0.16 mg/m3)|
|Bulgaria||Confirmed human carcinogen|
|Colombia||Confirmed human carcinogen|
|Denmark||TWA 0.01 ppm (0.03 mg/m3)|
|Egypt||TWA 0.05 ppm (0.2 mg/m3)|
|Hungary||TWA 0.2 mg/m3STEL 0.8 mg/m3|
|Jordan||Confirmed human carcinogen|
|Mexico||TWA 0.05 ppm (0.2 mg/m3)|
|Netherlands||MAC-TCG 0.2 mg/m3|
|New Zealand||TWA 0.05 ppm (0.16 mg/m3)|
|Norway||TWA 0.003 ppm (0.01 mg/m3)|
|Philippines||TWA 0.05 ppm (0.16 mg/m3)|
|Poland||TWA 0.2 mg/m3 STEL 0.6 mg/m3|
|Russia||STEL 0.1 mg/m3|
|Singapore||Confirmed human carcinogen|
|South Korea||TWA 0.05 ppm (0.2 mg/m3)|
|Sweden||TWA 0.02 ppm (0.05 mg/m3)|
|Switzerland||MAK-week 0.05 ppm (0.16 mg/m3)|
|Thailand||TWA 0.05 ppm (0.2 mg/m3)|
|Turkey||TWA 0.05 ppm (0.2 mg/m3)|
|United Kingdom||TWA 0.05 ppm (0.16 mg/m3)|
|United States||0.05 ppm (0.2 mg/m3)|
|Vietnam||Confirmed human carcinogen|
Note: Shaded areas indicates exposure limits with no standards given.
- NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. "#0040". National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
- Levvy, G.A. (1946). "The Toxicity of Arsine Administered by Intraperitoneal Injection". British Journal of Pharmacology and Chemotherapy. 1 (4): 287–290. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.1946.tb00049.x. PMC 1509744. PMID 19108099.
- "Arsine". Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health Concentrations (IDLH). National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
- Holleman, A. F.; Wiberg, E. (2001) Inorganic Chemistry Academic Press: San Diego, ISBN 0-12-352651-5.
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While arsine itself is odourless, its oxidation by air may produce a slight, garlic-like scent. However, it is lethal in concentrations far lower than those required to produce this smell.
- "Medical Management Guidelines for Arsine (AsH3)". Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry.
- Hartman, Robert James (1947). Briscoe, Herman Thompson (ed.). Colloid Chemistry (2 ed.). Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 124.
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