The term phosphate refers to any chemical compound containing a characteristic grouping of atoms, given by the formula PO4, or comparable groupings. In the field of industrial minerals, the term most commonly refers to a specific naturally occurring phosphate, calcium phosphate, or phosphate rock.
By far the most important use of phosphate rock is in agriculture, where it is treated to produce fertilizers and animal feeds. Typically, about 80% of all the phosphate rock used in the United States goes to one of these agricultural applications.
Phosphate rock is also an important source for the production of other phosphate compounds, such as sodium, potassium, and ammonium phosphate. Each of these compounds, in turn, has a very large variety of uses in everyday life. For example, one form of sodium phosphate is a common ingredient in dishwashing detergents. Another, ammonium phosphate, is used to treat cloth to make it fire retardant. Potassium phosphate is used in the preparation of baking powder.
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