It is precipitated as the metal from solutions of its salts by the metals of the alkalis and alkaline earths, zinc, iron, copper, &c. In its chemical affinities it resembles arsenic and antimony; an important distinction is that it forms no hydrogen compound analogous to arsine and stibine.
In its general behaviour it resembles arsine, burning with a violet flame and being decomposed by heat into its constituent elements.
Arsenic trihydride (arsine or arseniuretted hydrogen), AsH3, is formed by decomposing zinc arsenide with dilute sulphuric acid; by the action of nascent hydrogen on arsenious compounds, and by the electrolysis of solutions of arsenious and arsenic acids; it is also a product of the action of organic matter on many arsenic compounds.
Chlorine, bromine and iodine decompose arsine readily, the action being most violent in the case of chlorine.
The tri-iodide, AsI3 prepared by subliming arsenic and iodine together in a retort, by leading arsine into an alcoholic iodine solution, or by boiling powdered arsenic and iodine with water, filtering and evaporating, forms brick-red hexagonal tables, of specific gravity 4.39, soluble in alcohol, ether and benzene, and in a large excess of water; in the presence of a small quantity of water, it is decomposed with formation of hydriodic acid and an insoluble basic salt of the composition 4AsOI.
Many organic arsenic compounds are known, analogous to those of nitrogen and phosphorus, but apparently the primary and secondary arsines, AsH2CH3 and AsH(CH3)2, do not exist, although the corresponding chlorine derivatives, AsCl2CH3, methyl arsine chloride, and AsCl(CH3)2, dimethyl arsine chloride, are known.
The tertiary arsines, such as As(CH3)3, trimethyl arsine, and the quaternary arsonium iodides and hydroxides, (CH3)4AsI and (CH3)4AsOH, tetramethyl arsonium iodide and hydroxide, have been obtained.
The arsines and arsine chlorides are liquids of overpowering smell, and in some cases exert an extremely irritating action on the mucous membrane.
The dimethyl arsine (or cacodyl) compounds have been most studied.