2.07
32.06
[Ne] 3s23p4  
32S
16
3
p
16
2, 8, 6
999.589
S
2.07
115.21°C, 239.38°F, 388.36 K
444.61°C, 832.3°F, 717.76 K
Prehistoric
7704-34-9
4515054
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Uses and Properties

Image Explanation

Sulfur plays an important role in onions and other Alliums because it directly influences their unique flavors.

Appearance

There are several allotropes of sulfur. The most common appears as yellow crystals or powder.

Uses

The Multifaceted Element Shaping Our World


Sulfur, represented by the chemical symbol S on the periodic table, is an element that has been integral to human history for millennia. Its distinctive properties and versatile applications have made it an indispensable component of various industries, from agriculture to the petrochemical sector. In this article, we will explore the diverse and vital uses of sulfur, highlighting its contributions to agriculture, industry, medicine, and more.

 

1. Fertilizers: Nourishing the Earth


One of the most significant uses of sulfur is in agriculture. Sulfur is a vital nutrient for plants, and it is an essential component of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Sulfur is crucial for plant growth and development, helping to synthesize chlorophyll and enabling efficient nitrogen utilization. Sulfur-based fertilizers, such as sulfuric acid and gypsum, play a pivotal role in replenishing soil with this essential nutrient.

 

2. Chemical Industry: Catalyst and Raw Material


Sulfur's presence in the chemical industry is multifaceted. It serves as a catalyst in various chemical reactions, facilitating the production of numerous important compounds. Additionally, sulfur is a raw material for the manufacturing of sulfuric acid, one of the most widely used industrial chemicals in the world. Sulfuric acid is employed in diverse applications, from petroleum refining to battery production.

 

3. Petroleum Refining: Fueling Transportation


Sulfur is a critical element in the petroleum refining process. It is used to remove impurities, particularly sulfur compounds, from crude oil. Reducing the sulfur content in fuels, such as gasoline and diesel, is essential to meeting environmental standards and reducing air pollution. Sulfur removal ensures that the fuels burned in engines and vehicles are cleaner and more environmentally friendly.

 

4. Pharmaceuticals: Healing and Preserving


Sulfur has numerous applications in the pharmaceutical industry. It is a key component in the production of antibiotics and other medications. Sulfur-based compounds are employed as preservatives in some pharmaceutical products, helping to extend their shelf life and maintain their effectiveness.

 

5. Rubber and Tires: Enhancing Durability


Sulfur plays a pivotal role in the vulcanization of rubber, a process that enhances the durability and elasticity of rubber materials. Vulcanized rubber is used in a wide range of applications, from tires to footwear, providing improved resistance to wear and tear. Sulfur crosslinks the polymer chains in rubber, making it more resilient.

 

6. Metal Production: Extracting Valuable Minerals


Sulfur is used in the metallurgical industry for the extraction of valuable minerals from ores. In the process of froth flotation, sulfur-containing compounds are employed as collectors to selectively separate minerals from gangue materials. This technique is essential in the production of metals like copper, lead, and zinc.

 

7. Water Treatment: Ensuring Clean Water


Sulfur-based compounds are employed in water treatment processes, where they aid in removing contaminants and impurities from water sources. Sulfur dioxide, for example, can effectively dechlorinate water, making it safe for consumption and industrial use. Sulfur compounds contribute to the purification of drinking water and the treatment of wastewater.

 

8. Food Industry: Preservatives and Flavor Enhancers


Sulfur dioxide and sulfites are commonly used in the food industry as preservatives and antioxidants. They help prevent the spoilage of food products and maintain their freshness. Sulfur compounds are also used as flavor enhancers, particularly in dried fruits and wine production.

 

9. Match Production: Igniting Flames


Sulfur is an integral component of match production. The tip of a matchstick typically contains sulfur, which ignites when struck against a rough surface. This chemical reaction generates the flame that lights the match, making sulfur a fundamental element in fire-starting technology.

 

10. Environment: Controlling Pests and Fungi


Sulfur-based compounds are used in agriculture as pesticides and fungicides. Sulfur's ability to control pests and fungi makes it an important tool for protecting crops from diseases and infestations while reducing the reliance on chemical pesticides.

 

Sulfur's Pervasive Influence


Sulfur, a modest yet powerful element, has left an indelible mark on various aspects of our lives. From its role in agriculture and industry to its contributions in medicine, transportation, and environmental protection, sulfur's versatile applications have shaped our world. Its ability to nourish crops, refine petroleum, and preserve food, among many other uses, underscores its pervasive influence and its significance in our daily lives. Sulfur remains a steadfast and indispensable component of modern society, supporting progress and contributing to the betterment of our world.

History

Sulfur, symbolized as S on the periodic table, is an element with a storied history that dates back to ancient civilizations. Known for its distinctive smell and vibrant yellow color, sulfur has played a significant role in human culture, alchemy, and industry. In this article, we will embark on a historical journey to explore the fascinating evolution of sulfur, from its use in religious rituals to its pivotal role in various industrial applications.

 

Ancient Origins: Sulfur's Mystical Aura


Sulfur's use in human history can be traced back to the earliest civilizations. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans recognized sulfur's unique properties and used it in various religious and medicinal practices. It was known as "brimstone" in ancient texts and was associated with purification and protection.

 

Alchemy and the Philosopher's Stone


During the Middle Ages, sulfur became a central element in alchemy, a precursor to modern chemistry. Alchemists believed that sulfur, along with mercury and salt, was one of the three essential elements for the transmutation of base metals into gold. The quest for the "philosopher's stone," a mythical substance that could achieve this transformation, led to extensive experimentation with sulfur and its compounds.

 

The Discovery of Sulfuric Acid


In the 8th century, the Persian alchemist Jabir ibn Hayyan, known as Geber in the West, made significant contributions to the understanding of sulfur and its compounds. He is credited with the discovery of sulfuric acid, one of the most important industrial chemicals. However, it wasn't until the 18th century that English chemist Joseph Priestley succeeded in isolating and characterizing sulfur dioxide and sulfuric acid.

 

Gunpowder and Explosives


Sulfur's explosive potential was recognized in the invention of gunpowder, which revolutionized warfare. Gunpowder, a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate, was developed in China around the 9th century. Its use spread worldwide and had a profound impact on military technology and geopolitics.

 

Sulfur in Industry: The 19th Century and Beyond


The 19th century marked a significant turning point for sulfur as it found numerous industrial applications. The development of the lead-chamber process by English chemist John Roebuck in 1746 enabled the large-scale production of sulfuric acid. This process was further refined by Belgian chemist John-Louis Lavoisier and paved the way for the industrial use of sulfuric acid in various chemical processes.

 

Sulfur in Agriculture: Fertilizer and Soil Improvement


Sulfur's role in agriculture became prominent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was recognized as an essential nutrient for plant growth and development. Sulfur-containing fertilizers, such as superphosphate, were developed to replenish soil with this vital element. Sulfur's contribution to agriculture became increasingly crucial with the Green Revolution, which aimed to boost global food production.

 

Petroleum Refining: Reducing Environmental Impact


In the mid-20th century, the importance of sulfur in the petroleum industry became evident. Sulfur compounds present in crude oil were a major source of air pollution. Environmental concerns and regulatory measures led to the development of sulfur removal technologies in the refining process. This reduced the sulfur content in fuels, such as gasoline and diesel, making them cleaner and less harmful to the environment.

 

The Modern Era: Sulfur's Versatile Applications


Today, sulfur continues to be an essential element in various industries and technologies. It is used in the vulcanization of rubber, ensuring the durability and elasticity of rubber products, from tires to footwear. Sulfur's role in the development of pharmaceuticals and its applications in water treatment, metal production, and food preservation highlight its versatility and enduring importance.

 

Sulfur's Journey Through Time


Sulfur, with its rich history and diverse applications, has evolved from a mystical substance associated with religious rituals to a fundamental element in industry, agriculture, and technology. Its contributions to alchemy, gunpowder, and the chemical industry have been pivotal in shaping human progress. As we continue to harness its unique properties for agricultural advancement, environmental protection, and technological innovation, sulfur's journey through time underscores its enduring significance and its remarkable transformation from ancient brimstone to a modern marvel.

Atomic Data

Atomic Radiues, Non-bonded (A): 1.80
Electron Affinity (kJ mol-1): 200.41
Covalent Radiues (A): 1.04
Electronegativity (Pauling Scale): 2.58
Ionisation Energies (kJ mol-1) 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th
999.589 2251.763 3356.72 4556.231 7004.305 8495.824 27107.363 31719.56

Oxidation States and Isotopes

Common oxidation states 6, 4, 2, -2
Isotope Atomic Mass Natural Abundance Half Life Mode of Decay
32S 31.972 94.99 - -
33S 32.971 0.75 - -
34S 33.968 4.25 - -
36S 35.967 0.01 - -

Supply Risk

Relative Supply Risk: 3.5
Crustal Abundance (ppm): 404
Recycle Rate (%): Unknown
Production Conc.(%) : 17.4
Top 3 Producers:
1) China
2) USA
3) Canada
Top 3 Reserve Holders:
Unknown
Substitutability: Unknown
Political Stability of Top Producer: 24.1
Political Stability of Top Reserve Holder: Unknown

Pressure and Temperature Data

Specific Heat Capacity: 708
Shear Modulus: Unknown
Young Modulus: Unknown
Bulk Modulus: 7.7
Pressure 400k Pressure 600k Pressure 800k Pressure 1000k Pressure 1200k Pressure 1400k Pressure 1600k Pressure 1800k Pressure 2000k Pressure 2200k Pressure 2400k
- - - - - - - - - - 7.7

Podcast










Listen to Sulfur Podcast


Transcript :

Sulfur plays a vital role in life. It is essential for biosynthesis of proteins. Additionally, it plays a significant role as a lowering agent. Various allotropes of Sulphur are formed due to differences in crystal structures. These vary from one another in terms of density and color. The most prevalent form of Sulfur is called cyclooctaSulfur, or S8 for short. This allotrope has a mostly crystalline structure and exhibits greater stability when compared to other types. Sulfur-oxidizing bacteria are important in soil ecosystems. These bacteria oxidize reduced Sulfur through sulfide oxidase. They play a crucial role in removing Sulfur pollution. Sulfur is a by-product of oil and gas production. It is available in various forms including granular Sulfur, gaseous Sulfur, and liquid Sulfur. Several studies have shown that children living near elemental Sulfur applications have increased asthma symptoms. Researchers studied hundreds of children in Salinas Valley, California. They found that a 10-fold increase in Sulfur was associated with a doubled risk of respiratory symptoms. Similarly, children living in proximity to Sulfur-contaminated fields had reduced lung function. The study's authors called for further research and possible changes in the application process. Sulfur's chemistry evolution is not dissimilar to the histories of other a-elements. It is one among the most prevalent elements found throughout the cosmos. The atomic weight of Sulphur is 2.07 grams per cubic centimeter. It has six valence electrons in the outer shell.

Sulfur has been known since ancient times. It is the tenth most abundant chemical element in the universe. In the early 21st century, the major producers of Sulfur were Canada, Germany, and China. However, the largest market was the Gulf Coast salt domes. Sulfur was mined underground and recovered using the Frasch process. In the Frasch process, Sulfur was heated to a certain temperature and injected with superheated water. The result was a very pure liquid.

The process was named after chemist Herman Frasch. The process allowed the recovery of 75%-92% of the Sulphur from the salt domes. This process continues in Russia and Poland.

Throughout the world, Sulfur is found in many different forms. Sulphur is present in the amino acids, methionine and cysteine. It can also be found in the sulfate fertilizer cinnabar. Sulfur is also present in the Sulphate ores, Zinc blende, and Iron Pyrites.

It is present in large natural deposits. It is also one of the elements that composes all living cells. Sulphur occurs naturally in sulfates and inorganic compounds, and is also produced through chemical processes. It is a major component of a variety of products, including gunpowder, explosives, and sheet metal. Sulfur is found naturally in the environment as Sulphides. Traditionally, Sulfur was produced in the form of HydroSulfuric acid. Sulfur is produced by a-capture in the inner layers of massive stars. It is released into the interstellar medium, ISM, through Type II supernova. It is also produced naturally by the decay of organic Sulfur. It is often found near volcanoes.

Among the many properties of Sulfur, one of the most important is its tastelessness. In addition, it is a powerful reducing agent. During combustion, it burns with a blue flame. During the burning process, it releases Sulfur oxides, namely, nitric oxide and Sulfur trioxide. Sulfur dioxide is a colorless gas that has a pungent odor.

Sulphur has a powerful antioxidant and antifungal activities. It is a highly reactive element. It reacts strongly with other metals to form Sulfur oxides. These oxides are soluble in water and can be used to make Sulfurous acid. The oxidation states of Sulfur are -2, +4, and +6. Hydrogen sulfide is the most familiar hydride of Sulfur.

Sulfur is very important element for a number of different applications, from the creation of plastics to the production of pharmaceutical drugs. It is a component of many common mineral salts and has several other uses. In order to prevent powdery mildew from spreading across orchards, Sulfur is often used. It can combine with nearly all other elements, and is used in the manufacture of many chemicals. It is used in detergents, fungicides, batteries, fireworks, gun power, and corrosion resistant concrete. Several applications of Sulfur are considered in the mining industry. Among these, one of the largest is for production of Sulfuric acid. This acid is used in a variety of applications, such as making batteries, fertilizers, and fibers. Sulfur-related processes have been extensively studied in biological phenomena and molecular biology. They have applications in agrobiotechnology and cellular biology.

Sulfur has been put to service in a broad range of applications all throughout human history. It has been used as a chemical clock, a fire accelerant, incendiary weapons, and for pyrotechnical displays. Sulfur is one of the most important basic chemical commodities. It is also used in veterinary medicinal salves. Sulphur is also a major component of enzymes and hormones. In ancient times, Sulfur dioxide was used in homes as a fumigant. It was also used as a pigment in cave paintings. Sulfur is widely used in agriculture, especially in Europe, where it is approved for use in organic crops. However, the wide application of Sulfur may pose a health and environmental risk.

References


  • W. M. Haynes, ed., CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, CRC Press/Taylor and Francis, Boca Raton, FL, 95th Edition, Internet Version 2015, accessed December 2014.

  • Tables of Physical & Chemical Constants, Kaye & Laby Online, 16th edition, 1995. Version 1.0 (2005), accessed December 2014.

  • J. S. Coursey, D. J. Schwab, J. J. Tsai, and R. A. Dragoset, Atomic Weights and Isotopic Compositions (version 4.1), 2015, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, accessed November 2016.

  • T. L. Cottrell, The Strengths of Chemical Bonds, Butterworth, London, 1954.

  • John Emsley, Nature’s Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements, Oxford University Press, New York, 2nd Edition, 2011.

  • Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education, It’s Elemental - The Periodic Table of Elements, accessed December 2014.