Sulfur

Sulfur

Overview
Sulfur or sulphur (icon ; see spelling below) is the chemical element
Chemical element
A chemical element is a pure chemical substance consisting of one type of atom distinguished by its atomic number, which is the number of protons in its nucleus. Familiar examples of elements include carbon, oxygen, aluminum, iron, copper, gold, mercury, and lead.As of November 2011, 118 elements...

 with atomic number
Atomic number
In chemistry and physics, the atomic number is the number of protons found in the nucleus of an atom and therefore identical to the charge number of the nucleus. It is conventionally represented by the symbol Z. The atomic number uniquely identifies a chemical element...

 16. In the periodic table
Periodic table
The periodic table of the chemical elements is a tabular display of the 118 known chemical elements organized by selected properties of their atomic structures. Elements are presented by increasing atomic number, the number of protons in an atom's atomic nucleus...

 it is represented by the symbol S. It is an abundant
Abundance of the chemical elements
The abundance of a chemical element measures how relatively common the element is, or how much of the element is present in a given environment by comparison to all other elements...

, multivalent
Valence (chemistry)
In chemistry, valence, also known as valency or valence number, is a measure of the number of bonds formed by an atom of a given element. "Valence" can be defined as the number of valence bonds...

 non-metal. Under normal conditions
Standard conditions for temperature and pressure
Standard condition for temperature and pressure are standard sets of conditions for experimental measurements established to allow comparisons to be made between different sets of data...

, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow crystal
Crystal
A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituent atoms, molecules, or ions are arranged in an orderly repeating pattern extending in all three spatial dimensions. The scientific study of crystals and crystal formation is known as crystallography...

line solid when at room temperature. Chemically, sulfur can react as either an oxidant or reducing agent
Reducing agent
A reducing agent is the element or compound in a reduction-oxidation reaction that donates an electron to another species; however, since the reducer loses an electron we say it is "oxidized"...

. It oxidizes most metal
Metal
A metal , is an element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat. Metals are usually malleable and shiny, that is they reflect most of incident light...

s and several nonmetal
Nonmetal
Nonmetal, or non-metal, is a term used in chemistry when classifying the chemical elements. On the basis of their general physical and chemical properties, every element in the periodic table can be termed either a metal or a nonmetal...

s, including carbon, which leads to its negative charge in most organosulfur compounds, but it reduces several strong oxidants, such as oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

 and fluorine
Fluorine
Fluorine is the chemical element with atomic number 9, represented by the symbol F. It is the lightest element of the halogen column of the periodic table and has a single stable isotope, fluorine-19. At standard pressure and temperature, fluorine is a pale yellow gas composed of diatomic...

.
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Encyclopedia
Sulfur or sulphur (icon ; see spelling below) is the chemical element
Chemical element
A chemical element is a pure chemical substance consisting of one type of atom distinguished by its atomic number, which is the number of protons in its nucleus. Familiar examples of elements include carbon, oxygen, aluminum, iron, copper, gold, mercury, and lead.As of November 2011, 118 elements...

 with atomic number
Atomic number
In chemistry and physics, the atomic number is the number of protons found in the nucleus of an atom and therefore identical to the charge number of the nucleus. It is conventionally represented by the symbol Z. The atomic number uniquely identifies a chemical element...

 16. In the periodic table
Periodic table
The periodic table of the chemical elements is a tabular display of the 118 known chemical elements organized by selected properties of their atomic structures. Elements are presented by increasing atomic number, the number of protons in an atom's atomic nucleus...

 it is represented by the symbol S. It is an abundant
Abundance of the chemical elements
The abundance of a chemical element measures how relatively common the element is, or how much of the element is present in a given environment by comparison to all other elements...

, multivalent
Valence (chemistry)
In chemistry, valence, also known as valency or valence number, is a measure of the number of bonds formed by an atom of a given element. "Valence" can be defined as the number of valence bonds...

 non-metal. Under normal conditions
Standard conditions for temperature and pressure
Standard condition for temperature and pressure are standard sets of conditions for experimental measurements established to allow comparisons to be made between different sets of data...

, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow crystal
Crystal
A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituent atoms, molecules, or ions are arranged in an orderly repeating pattern extending in all three spatial dimensions. The scientific study of crystals and crystal formation is known as crystallography...

line solid when at room temperature. Chemically, sulfur can react as either an oxidant or reducing agent
Reducing agent
A reducing agent is the element or compound in a reduction-oxidation reaction that donates an electron to another species; however, since the reducer loses an electron we say it is "oxidized"...

. It oxidizes most metal
Metal
A metal , is an element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat. Metals are usually malleable and shiny, that is they reflect most of incident light...

s and several nonmetal
Nonmetal
Nonmetal, or non-metal, is a term used in chemistry when classifying the chemical elements. On the basis of their general physical and chemical properties, every element in the periodic table can be termed either a metal or a nonmetal...

s, including carbon, which leads to its negative charge in most organosulfur compounds, but it reduces several strong oxidants, such as oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

 and fluorine
Fluorine
Fluorine is the chemical element with atomic number 9, represented by the symbol F. It is the lightest element of the halogen column of the periodic table and has a single stable isotope, fluorine-19. At standard pressure and temperature, fluorine is a pale yellow gas composed of diatomic...

. It is also the lightest element to easily produce stable exceptions to the octet rule
Octet rule
The octet rule is a chemical rule of thumb that states that atoms of low The octet rule is a chemical rule of thumb that states that atoms of low The octet rule is a chemical rule of thumb that states that atoms of low (The octet rule is a chemical rule of thumb that states that atoms of low (...

.

In nature
Nature
Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general...

, sulfur can be found as the pure element and as sulfide
Sulfide
A sulfide is an anion of sulfur in its lowest oxidation state of 2-. Sulfide is also a slightly archaic term for thioethers, a common type of organosulfur compound that are well known for their bad odors.- Properties :...

 and sulfate
Sulfate
In inorganic chemistry, a sulfate is a salt of sulfuric acid.-Chemical properties:...

 minerals. Elemental sulfur crystals are commonly sought after by mineral collectors for their brightly colored polyhedron
Polyhedron
In elementary geometry a polyhedron is a geometric solid in three dimensions with flat faces and straight edges...

 shapes. Being abundant in native form, sulfur was known in ancient times, mentioned for its uses in ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

, China and Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

. Sulfur fumes were used as fumigants, and sulfur-containing medicinal mixtures were used as balms and antiparasitics. Sulfur is referenced in the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 as brimstone in English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, with this name still used in several nonscientific terms. Sulfur was considered important enough to receive its own alchemical symbol
Alchemical symbol
Alchemical symbols, originally devised as part of alchemy, were used to denote some elements and some compounds until the 18th century. Note that while notation like this was mostly standardized, style and symbol varied between alchemists, so this page lists the most common.-Three primes:According...

. It was needed to make the best quality of black gunpowder
Gunpowder
Gunpowder, also known since in the late 19th century as black powder, was the first chemical explosive and the only one known until the mid 1800s. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate - with the sulfur and charcoal acting as fuels, while the saltpeter works as an oxidizer...

, and the bright yellow powder was hypothesized by alchemists to contain some of the properties of gold, which they sought to synthesize from it. In 1777, Antoine Lavoisier
Antoine Lavoisier
Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier , the "father of modern chemistry", was a French nobleman prominent in the histories of chemistry and biology...

 helped convince the scientific community that sulfur was a basic element, rather than a compound.

Elemental sulfur was once extracted from salt dome
Salt dome
A salt dome is a type of structural dome formed when a thick bed of evaporite minerals found at depth intrudes vertically into surrounding rock strata, forming a diapir....

s where it sometimes occurs in nearly pure form, but this method has been obsolete since the late 20th century. Today, almost all elemental sulfur is produced as a byproduct of removing sulfur-containing contaminants from natural gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

 and petroleum
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

. The element's commercial uses are primarily in fertilizer
Fertilizer
Fertilizer is any organic or inorganic material of natural or synthetic origin that is added to a soil to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants. A recent assessment found that about 40 to 60% of crop yields are attributable to commercial fertilizer use...

s, because of the relatively high requirement of plants for it, and in the manufacture of sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid is a strong mineral acid with the molecular formula . Its historical name is oil of vitriol. Pure sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive, colorless, viscous liquid. The salts of sulfuric acid are called sulfates...

, a primary industrial chemical. Other well-known uses for the element are in match
Match
A match is a tool for starting a fire under controlled conditions. A typical modern match is made of a small wooden stick or stiff paper. One end is coated with a material that can be ignited by frictional heat generated by striking the match against a suitable surface...

es, insecticide
Insecticide
An insecticide is a pesticide used against insects. They include ovicides and larvicides used against the eggs and larvae of insects respectively. Insecticides are used in agriculture, medicine, industry and the household. The use of insecticides is believed to be one of the major factors behind...

s and fungicide
Fungicide
Fungicides are chemical compounds or biological organisms used to kill or inhibit fungi or fungal spores. Fungi can cause serious damage in agriculture, resulting in critical losses of yield, quality and profit. Fungicides are used both in agriculture and to fight fungal infections in animals...

s. Many sulfur compounds are odiferous, and the smell of odorized natural gas, skunk scent, grapefruit, and garlic is due to sulfur compounds. Hydrogen sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide is the chemical compound with the formula . It is a colorless, very poisonous, flammable gas with the characteristic foul odor of expired eggs perceptible at concentrations as low as 0.00047 parts per million...

 produced by living organisms imparts the characteristic odor to rotting eggs and other biological processes.

Sulfur is an essential element for all life, and is widely used in biochemical processes. In metabolic reactions, sulfur compounds serve as both fuels and respiratory (oxygen-replacing) materials for simple organisms. Sulfur in organic form is present in the vitamins biotin
Biotin
Biotin, also known as Vitamin H or Coenzyme R, is a water-soluble B-complex vitamin discovered by Bateman in 1916. It is composed of a ureido ring fused with a tetrahydrothiophene ring. A valeric acid substituent is attached to one of the carbon atoms of the tetrahydrothiophene ring...

 and thiamine
Thiamine
Thiamine or thiamin or vitamin B1 , named as the "thio-vitamine" is a water-soluble vitamin of the B complex. First named aneurin for the detrimental neurological effects if not present in the diet, it was eventually assigned the generic descriptor name vitamin B1. Its phosphate derivatives are...

, the latter being named for the Greek word for sulfur. Sulfur is an important part of many enzymes and in antioxidant molecules like glutathione
Glutathione
Glutathione is a tripeptide that contains an unusual peptide linkage between the amine group of cysteine and the carboxyl group of the glutamate side-chain...

 and thioredoxin
Thioredoxin
Thioredoxin is a class of small redox proteins known to be present in all organisms. It plays a role in many important biological processes. In humans, it is encoded by the TXN gene. Loss-of-function mutation of either of the two human thioredoxin genes is lethal at the four-cell stage of the...

. Organically bonded sulfur is a component of all proteins, as the amino acid
Amino acid
Amino acids are molecules containing an amine group, a carboxylic acid group and a side-chain that varies between different amino acids. The key elements of an amino acid are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen...

s cysteine
Cysteine
Cysteine is an α-amino acid with the chemical formula HO2CCHCH2SH. It is a non-essential amino acid, which means that it is biosynthesized in humans. Its codons are UGU and UGC. The side chain on cysteine is thiol, which is polar and thus cysteine is usually classified as a hydrophilic amino acid...

 and methionine
Methionine
Methionine is an α-amino acid with the chemical formula HO2CCHCH2CH2SCH3. This essential amino acid is classified as nonpolar. This amino-acid is coded by the codon AUG, also known as the initiation codon, since it indicates mRNA's coding region where translation into protein...

. Disulfide
Disulfide
In chemistry, a disulfide usually refers to the structural unit composed of a linked pair of sulfur atoms. Disulfide usually refer to a chemical compound that contains a disulfide bond, such as diphenyl disulfide, C6H5S-SC6H5....

 bonds are largely responsible for the mechanical strength and insolubility of the protein keratin
Keratin
Keratin refers to a family of fibrous structural proteins. Keratin is the key of structural material making up the outer layer of human skin. It is also the key structural component of hair and nails...

, found in outer skin, hair, and feathers, and the element contributes to their pungent odor when burned.

Characteristics



Physical


Sulfur forms polyatomic molecules with different chemical formulas, with the best-known allotrope being octasulfur
Octasulfur
Octasulfur is a cyclosulfane with the molecular formula S8. It is a simple yellow coloured sulfur. It is also the final member of the thiocane heterocylic series, where every carbon is substituted with a sulfur atom....

, cyclo-S8. Octasulfur is a soft, bright-yellow solid with only a faint odor, similar to that of match
Match
A match is a tool for starting a fire under controlled conditions. A typical modern match is made of a small wooden stick or stiff paper. One end is coated with a material that can be ignited by frictional heat generated by striking the match against a suitable surface...

es. It melts at 115.21 °C, boils at 444.6 °C and sublimes easily. At 95.2 °C, below its melting temperature, cyclo-octasulfur changes from α-octasulfur to the β-polymorph
Polymorphism (materials science)
Polymorphism in materials science is the ability of a solid material to exist in more than one form or crystal structure. Polymorphism can potentially be found in any crystalline material including polymers, minerals, and metals, and is related to allotropy, which refers to chemical elements...

. The structure of the S8 ring is virtually unchanged by this phase change, which affects the intermolecular interactions. Between its melting and boiling temperatures, octasulfur changes its allotrope again, turning from β-octasulfur to γ-sulfur, again accompanied by a lower density but increased viscosity
Viscosity
Viscosity is a measure of the resistance of a fluid which is being deformed by either shear or tensile stress. In everyday terms , viscosity is "thickness" or "internal friction". Thus, water is "thin", having a lower viscosity, while honey is "thick", having a higher viscosity...

 due to the formation of polymer
Polymer
A polymer is a large molecule composed of repeating structural units. These subunits are typically connected by covalent chemical bonds...

s. At even higher temperatures, however, the viscosity decreases as depolymerization occurs. Molten sulfur assumes a dark red color above 200 °C. The density of sulfur is about 2 g·cm−3, depending on the allotrope; all of its stable allotropes are excellent electrical insulators.

Chemical


Sulfur burns with a blue flame concomitant with formation of sulfur dioxide
Sulfur dioxide
Sulfur dioxide is the chemical compound with the formula . It is released by volcanoes and in various industrial processes. Since coal and petroleum often contain sulfur compounds, their combustion generates sulfur dioxide unless the sulfur compounds are removed before burning the fuel...

, notable for its peculiar suffocating odor. Sulfur is insoluble in water but soluble in carbon disulfide
Carbon disulfide
Carbon disulfide is a colorless volatile liquid with the formula CS2. The compound is used frequently as a building block in organic chemistry as well as an industrial and chemical non-polar solvent...

 and, to a lesser extent, in other nonpolar organic solvents, such as benzene
Benzene
Benzene is an organic chemical compound. It is composed of 6 carbon atoms in a ring, with 1 hydrogen atom attached to each carbon atom, with the molecular formula C6H6....

 and toluene
Toluene
Toluene, formerly known as toluol, is a clear, water-insoluble liquid with the typical smell of paint thinners. It is a mono-substituted benzene derivative, i.e., one in which a single hydrogen atom from the benzene molecule has been replaced by a univalent group, in this case CH3.It is an aromatic...

. The first and the second ionization energies of sulfur are 999.6 and 2252 kJ·mol−1, respectively. Despite such figures, S2+ is rare, S4, 6+ being more common. The fourth and sixth ionization energies are 4556 and 8495.8 kJ·mol−1, the magnitude of the figures caused by electron transfer between orbitals; these states are only stable with strong oxidants as fluorine
Fluorine
Fluorine is the chemical element with atomic number 9, represented by the symbol F. It is the lightest element of the halogen column of the periodic table and has a single stable isotope, fluorine-19. At standard pressure and temperature, fluorine is a pale yellow gas composed of diatomic...

, oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

, and chlorine
Chlorine
Chlorine is the chemical element with atomic number 17 and symbol Cl. It is the second lightest halogen, found in the periodic table in group 17. The element forms diatomic molecules under standard conditions, called dichlorine...

.

Allotropes




Sulfur forms more than 30 solid allotrope
Allotropy
Allotropy or allotropism is the property of some chemical elements to exist in two or more different forms, known as allotropes of these elements...

s, more than any other element. Besides S8, several other rings are known. Removing one atom from the crown gives S7, which is more deeply yellow than S8. HPLC
High-performance liquid chromatography
High-performance liquid chromatography , HPLC, is a chromatographic technique that can separate a mixture of compounds and is used in biochemistry and analytical chemistry to identify, quantify and purify the individual components of the mixture.HPLC typically utilizes different types of stationary...

 analysis of "elemental sulfur" reveals an equilibrium mixture of mainly S8, but with S7 and small amounts of S6. Larger rings have been prepared, including S12 and S18.

Amorphous or "plastic" sulfur is produced by rapid cooling of molten sulfur—for example, by pouring it into cold water. X-ray crystallography
X-ray crystallography
X-ray crystallography is a method of determining the arrangement of atoms within a crystal, in which a beam of X-rays strikes a crystal and causes the beam of light to spread into many specific directions. From the angles and intensities of these diffracted beams, a crystallographer can produce a...

 studies show that the amorphous form may have a helical
Helix
A helix is a type of smooth space curve, i.e. a curve in three-dimensional space. It has the property that the tangent line at any point makes a constant angle with a fixed line called the axis. Examples of helixes are coil springs and the handrails of spiral staircases. A "filled-in" helix – for...

 structure with eight atoms per turn. The long coiled polymeric molecules cause the brownish substance to be elastic
Elasticity (physics)
In physics, elasticity is the physical property of a material that returns to its original shape after the stress that made it deform or distort is removed. The relative amount of deformation is called the strain....

, and in bulk this form has the feel of crude rubber. This form is metastable at room temperature and gradually reverts to crystalline molecular allotrope, which is no longer elastic. This process happens within a matter of hours to days, but can be rapidly catalyzed.

Isotopes



Sulfur has 25 known isotope
Isotope
Isotopes are variants of atoms of a particular chemical element, which have differing numbers of neutrons. Atoms of a particular element by definition must contain the same number of protons but may have a distinct number of neutrons which differs from atom to atom, without changing the designation...

s, four of which are stable: 32S (95.02%), 33S (0.75%), 34S (4.21%), and 36S (0.02%). Other than 35S, with a half-life
Half-life
Half-life, abbreviated t½, is the period of time it takes for the amount of a substance undergoing decay to decrease by half. The name was originally used to describe a characteristic of unstable atoms , but it may apply to any quantity which follows a set-rate decay.The original term, dating to...

 of 87 days and formed in cosmic ray spallation
Cosmic ray spallation
Cosmic ray spallation is a form of naturally occurring nuclear fission and nucleosynthesis. It refers to the formation of elements from the impact of cosmic rays on an object. Cosmic rays are highly energetic charged particles from outside of Earth ranging from protons, alpha particles, and nuclei...

 of 40Ar
Argon
Argon is a chemical element represented by the symbol Ar. Argon has atomic number 18 and is the third element in group 18 of the periodic table . Argon is the third most common gas in the Earth's atmosphere, at 0.93%, making it more common than carbon dioxide...

, the radioactive isotopes of sulfur have half-lives less than .

When sulfide mineral
Mineral
A mineral is a naturally occurring solid chemical substance formed through biogeochemical processes, having characteristic chemical composition, highly ordered atomic structure, and specific physical properties. By comparison, a rock is an aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids and does not...

s are precipitated, isotopic equilibration among solids and liquid may cause small differences in the δS-34 values of co-genetic minerals. The differences between minerals can be used to estimate the temperature of equilibration. The δC
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

-13 and δS-34 of coexisting carbonate
Carbonate
In chemistry, a carbonate is a salt of carbonic acid, characterized by the presence of the carbonate ion, . The name may also mean an ester of carbonic acid, an organic compound containing the carbonate group C2....

s and sulfides can be used to determine the pH
PH
In chemistry, pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Pure water is said to be neutral, with a pH close to 7.0 at . Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline...

 and oxygen fugacity
Fugacity
In chemical thermodynamics, the fugacity of a real gas is an effective pressure which replaces the true mechanical pressure in accurate chemical equilibrium calculations. It is equal to the pressure of an ideal gas which has the same chemical potential as the real gas. For example, nitrogen gas ...

 of the ore-bearing fluid during ore formation.

In most forest
Forest
A forest, also referred to as a wood or the woods, is an area with a high density of trees. As with cities, depending where you are in the world, what is considered a forest may vary significantly in size and have various classification according to how and what of the forest is composed...

 ecosystems, sulfate is derived mostly from the atmosphere; weathering of ore minerals and evaporites contribute some sulfur. Sulfur with a distinctive isotopic composition has been used to identify pollution sources, and enriched sulfur has been added as a tracer in hydrologic
Hydrology
Hydrology is the study of the movement, distribution, and quality of water on Earth and other planets, including the hydrologic cycle, water resources and environmental watershed sustainability...

 studies. Differences in the natural abundance
Natural abundance
In chemistry, natural abundance refers to the abundance of isotopes of a chemical element as naturally found on a planet. The relative atomic mass of these isotopes is the atomic weight listed for the element in the periodic table...

s can be used in systems where there is sufficient variation in the 34S of ecosystem components. Rocky Mountain lakes thought to be dominated by atmospheric sources of sulfate have been found to have different δ34S values from lakes believed to be dominated by watershed sources of sulfate.

Natural occurrence



32S is created inside massive stars, at a depth where the temperature exceeds 2.5×109 K, by the fusion of one nucleus of silicon plus one nucleus of helium. As this is part of the alpha process that produces elements in abundance, sulfur is the 10th most common element in the universe.

Sulfur, usually as sulfide, is present in many types of meteorite
Meteorite
A meteorite is a natural object originating in outer space that survives impact with the Earth's surface. Meteorites can be big or small. Most meteorites derive from small astronomical objects called meteoroids, but they are also sometimes produced by impacts of asteroids...

s. Ordinary chondrites contain on average 2.1% sulfur, and carbonaceous chondrites may contain as much as 6.6%. It is normally present as troilite
Pyrrhotite
Pyrrhotite is an unusual iron sulfide mineral with a variable iron content: FeS . The FeS endmember is known as troilite. Pyrrhotite is also called magnetic pyrite because the color is similar to pyrite and it is weakly magnetic...

 (FeS), but there are exceptions, with carbonaceous chondrites containing free sulfur, sulfates and other sulfur compounds. The distinctive colors of Jupiter
Jupiter
Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest planet within the Solar System. It is a gas giant with mass one-thousandth that of the Sun but is two and a half times the mass of all the other planets in our Solar System combined. Jupiter is classified as a gas giant along with Saturn,...

's volcanic
Volcano
2. Bedrock3. Conduit 4. Base5. Sill6. Dike7. Layers of ash emitted by the volcano8. Flank| 9. Layers of lava emitted by the volcano10. Throat11. Parasitic cone12. Lava flow13. Vent14. Crater15...

 moon Io
Io (moon)
Io ) is the innermost of the four Galilean moons of the planet Jupiter and, with a diameter of , the fourth-largest moon in the Solar System. It was named after the mythological character of Io, a priestess of Hera who became one of the lovers of Zeus....

 are attributed to various forms of molten, solid and gaseous sulfur.

On Earth, elemental sulfur can be found near hot spring
Hot spring
A hot spring is a spring that is produced by the emergence of geothermally heated groundwater from the Earth's crust. There are geothermal hot springs in many locations all over the crust of the earth.-Definitions:...

s and volcanic regions in many parts of the world, especially along the Pacific Ring of Fire
Pacific Ring of Fire
The Pacific Ring of Fire is an area where large numbers of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in the basin of the Pacific Ocean. In a horseshoe shape, it is associated with a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and/or plate movements...

; such volcanic deposits are currently mined in Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

, Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

, and Japan. Such deposits are polycrystalline, with the largest documented single crystal measuring 22×16×11 cm. Historically, Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 was a large source of sulfur in the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

.

Significant deposits of elemental sulfur, believed to have been (and are still being) synthesised by anaerobic bacteria on sulfate minerals like gypsum
Gypsum
Gypsum is a very soft sulfate mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate, with the chemical formula CaSO4·2H2O. It is found in alabaster, a decorative stone used in Ancient Egypt. It is the second softest mineral on the Mohs Hardness Scale...

, exist in salt domes along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

, and in evaporite
Evaporite
Evaporite is a name for a water-soluble mineral sediment that result from concentration and crystallization by evaporation from an aqueous solution. There are two types of evaporate deposits, marine which can also be described as ocean deposits, and non-marine which are found in standing bodies of...

s in eastern Europe and western Asia. Native sulfur may be produced by geological processes alone. Fossil-based sulfur deposits from salt domes have until recently been the basis for commercial production in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan , formerly also known as Turkmenia is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic . Turkmenistan is one of the six independent Turkic states...

, and Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

. Such sources are now of secondary commercial importance, and most are no longer worked.

Common naturally-occurring sulfur compounds include the sulfide minerals, such as pyrite
Pyrite
The mineral pyrite, or iron pyrite, is an iron sulfide with the formula FeS2. This mineral's metallic luster and pale-to-normal, brass-yellow hue have earned it the nickname fool's gold because of its resemblance to gold...

 (iron sulfide), cinnabar
Cinnabar
Cinnabar or cinnabarite , is the common ore of mercury.-Word origin:The name comes from κινναβαρι , a Greek word most likely applied by Theophrastus to several distinct substances...

 (mercury sulfide), galena
Galena
Galena is the natural mineral form of lead sulfide. It is the most important lead ore mineral.Galena is one of the most abundant and widely distributed sulfide minerals. It crystallizes in the cubic crystal system often showing octahedral forms...

 (lead sulfide), sphalerite
Sphalerite
Sphalerite is a mineral that is the chief ore of zinc. It consists largely of zinc sulfide in crystalline form but almost always contains variable iron. When iron content is high it is an opaque black variety, marmatite. It is usually found in association with galena, pyrite, and other sulfides...

 (zinc sulfide) and stibnite
Stibnite
Stibnite, sometimes called antimonite, is a sulfide mineral with the formula Sb2S3. This soft grey material crystallizes in an orthorhombic space group. It is the most important source for the metalloid antimony...

 (antimony sulfide); and the sulfates, such as gypsum (calcium sulfate), alunite
Alunite
Alunite is a sulfate mineral that was first observed in the 15th century in Monti della Tolfa, north of Rome, where it was mined for the manufacture of alum. First called aluminilite by J.C. Delamétherie in 1797, this name was contracted by François Beudant in 1824 to alunite.Distinct crystals of...

 (potassium aluminium sulfate), and barite
Barite
Baryte, or barite, is a mineral consisting of barium sulfate. The baryte group consists of baryte, celestine, anglesite and anhydrite. Baryte itself is generally white or colorless, and is the main source of barium...

 (barium sulfate). On Earth, just as upon Jupiter's moon Io, elemental sulfur occurs naturally in volcanic emissions, including emissions from hydrothermal vent
Hydrothermal vent
A hydrothermal vent is a fissure in a planet's surface from which geothermally heated water issues. Hydrothermal vents are commonly found near volcanically active places, areas where tectonic plates are moving apart, ocean basins, and hotspots. Hydrothermal vents exist because the earth is both...

s.

Production


Sulfur may be found by itself and historically was usually obtained in this way, while pyrite has been a source of sulfur via sulfuric acid. The Sicilian process was used in ancient times to obtain sulfur from rocks present in volcanic regions of Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

: sulfur deposits were piled and stacked in brick kilns built on sloping hillsides, with airspaces between them. Then, powdered sulfur was put on top of the deposit and ignited, causing the deposits to melt down the hills. Today's sulfur production is as a side product of other industrial processes such as oil refining; in these processes, sulfur often occurs as undesired or detrimental compounds that are extracted and converted to elemental sulfur. As a mineral, native sulfur under salt domes is thought to be a fossil mineral resource, produced by the action of ancient bacteria on sulfate deposits. It was removed from such salt-dome mines mainly by the Frasch process
Frasch process
The Frasch process is a method to extract sulfur from underground deposits. It is the only economic method of recovering sulfur from elemental deposits...

. In this method, superheated water was pumped into a native sulfur deposit to melt the sulfur, and then compressed air returned the 99.5% pure melted product to the surface. Throughout the 20th century this procedure produced elemental sulfur which required no further purification. However, due to a limited number of such sulfur deposits and the high cost of working them, this process for mining sulfur has not been employed in a major way anywhere in the world since 2002.

Today, sulfur is produced from petroleum, natural gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

, and related fossil resources, from which it is obtained mainly as hydrogen sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide is the chemical compound with the formula . It is a colorless, very poisonous, flammable gas with the characteristic foul odor of expired eggs perceptible at concentrations as low as 0.00047 parts per million...

. Organosulfur compounds, undesirable impurities in petroleum, may be upgraded by subjecting them to hydrodesulfurization
Hydrodesulfurization
Hydrodesulfurization is a catalytic chemical process widely used to remove sulfur from natural gas and from refined petroleum products such as gasoline or petrol, jet fuel, kerosene, diesel fuel, and fuel oils...

, which cleaves the C–S bonds:
R-S-R + 2 H2 → 2 RH + H2S

The resulting hydrogen sulfide from this process, and also as it occurs in natural gas, is converted into elemental sulfur by the Claus process
Claus process
The Claus process is the most significant gas desulfurizing process, recovering elemental sulfur from gaseous hydrogen sulfide. First patented in 1883 by the scientist Carl Friedrich Claus, the Claus process has become the industry standard....

. This process entails oxidation of some hydrogen sulfide to sulfur dioxide and then the comproportionation of the two:
3 O2 + 2 H2S → 2 SO2 + 2 H2O
SO2 + 2 H2S → 3 S + 2 H2O

Owing to the high sulfur content of the Athabasca Oil Sands
Athabasca Oil Sands
The Athabasca oil sands are large deposits of bitumen, or extremely heavy crude oil, located in northeastern Alberta, Canada - roughly centred on the boomtown of Fort McMurray...

, stockpiles of elemental sulfur from this process now exist throughout Alberta, Canada. Another way of storing sulfur is as a binder
Binder (material)
-See also:*Adhesive or Glue*Cement*Paint...

 for concrete, the resulting product having many desirable properties. The price of sulfur increased from 2007 to 2008, and decreased thereafter.

Compounds


Common oxidation state
Oxidation state
In chemistry, the oxidation state is an indicator of the degree of oxidation of an atom in a chemical compound. The formal oxidation state is the hypothetical charge that an atom would have if all bonds to atoms of different elements were 100% ionic. Oxidation states are typically represented by...

s of sulfur range from −2 to +6. Sulfur forms stable compounds with all elements except the noble gas
Noble gas
The noble gases are a group of chemical elements with very similar properties: under standard conditions, they are all odorless, colorless, monatomic gases, with very low chemical reactivity...

es.

Sulfides


Treatment of sulfur with hydrogen gives hydrogen sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide is the chemical compound with the formula . It is a colorless, very poisonous, flammable gas with the characteristic foul odor of expired eggs perceptible at concentrations as low as 0.00047 parts per million...

. When dissolved in water, hydrogen sulfide is mildly acidic:
H2S HS + H+


Hydrogen sulfide gas and the dissolved sulfide and hydrosulfide anions are extremely toxic to mammals, due to their inhibition of the oxygen-carrying capacity of hemoglobin and certain cytochrome
Cytochrome
Cytochromes are, in general, membrane-bound hemoproteins that contain heme groups and carry out electron transport.They are found either as monomeric proteins or as subunits of bigger enzymatic complexes that catalyze redox reactions....

s in a manner analogous to cyanide
Cyanide
A cyanide is a chemical compound that contains the cyano group, -C≡N, which consists of a carbon atom triple-bonded to a nitrogen atom. Cyanides most commonly refer to salts of the anion CN−. Most cyanides are highly toxic....

 and azide
Azide
Azide is the anion with the formula N3−. It is the conjugate base of hydrazoic acid. N3− is a linear anion that is isoelectronic with CO2 and N2O. Per valence bond theory, azide can be described by several resonance structures, an important one being N−=N+=N−...

 (see below, under precautions).

Reduction of elemental sulfur gives polysulfide
Polysulfide
Polysulfides are a class of chemical compounds containing chains of sulfur atoms. There are two main classes of polysulfides: anions and organic polysulfides. Anions have the general formula Sn2−. These anions are the conjugate bases of the hydrogen polysulfides H2nSn...

s, which consist of chains of sulfur atoms terminated with S centers:
2 Na + S8 → Na2S8

This reaction highlights arguably the single most distinctive property of sulfur: its ability to catenate (bind to itself by formation of chains). Protonation of these polysulfide anions gives the polysulfanes, H2Sx where x = 2, 3, and 4.
Ultimately reduction of sulfur gives sulfide salts:
16 Na + S8 → 8 Na2S

The interconversion of these species is exploited in the sodium-sulfur battery
Sodium-sulfur battery
A sodium–sulfur battery or liquid metal battery is a type of molten metal battery constructed from sodium and sulfur . This type of battery has a high energy density, high efficiency of charge/discharge and long cycle life, and is fabricated from inexpensive materials...

. The radical anion
Trisulfur
The S3 molecule or trisulfur or sulfur trimer or thiozone or triatomic sulfur is an allotrope of sulfur. It occurs as a mixture in liquid and gaseous sulfur and also at cryogenic temperatures as a solid. Under standard conditions it is unstable and self reacts to solid sulfur S8. The molecule...

 S3 gives the blue color to the mineral lapis lazuli
Lapis lazuli
Lapis lazuli is a relatively rare semi-precious stone that has been prized since antiquity for its intense blue color....

.

Elemental sulfur can be oxidized, for example, to give bicyclic S82+.

Oxides and oxyanions


The principal sulfur oxides are obtained by burning sulfur:
S + O2 → SO2
2 SO2 + O2 → 2 SO3

Other oxides are known, e.g. sulfur monoxide and disulfur mono- and dioxides, but they are unstable.

The sulfur oxides form numerous oxyanions with the formula SOn2–. Sulfur dioxide and sulfites  are related to the unstable sulfurous acid (H2SO3). Sulfur trioxide
Sulfur trioxide
Sulfur trioxide is the chemical compound with the formula SO3. In the gaseous form, this species is a significant pollutant, being the primary agent in acid rain. It is prepared on massive scales as a precursor to sulfuric acid.-Structure and bonding:Gaseous SO3 is a trigonal planar molecule of...

 and sulfate
Sulfate
In inorganic chemistry, a sulfate is a salt of sulfuric acid.-Chemical properties:...

s are related to sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid is a strong mineral acid with the molecular formula . Its historical name is oil of vitriol. Pure sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive, colorless, viscous liquid. The salts of sulfuric acid are called sulfates...

. Sulfuric acid and SO3 combine to give oleum, a solution of pyrosulfuric acid (H2S2O7) in sulfuric acid.

Peroxides convert sulfur into unstable such as S8O, a sulfoxide. Peroxymonosulfuric acid
Peroxymonosulfuric acid
Peroxymonosulfuric acid, also known as persulfuric acid, peroxysulfuric acid, or as Caro's acid, is H2SO5, a liquid at room temperature. In this acid, the S center adopts its characteristic tetrahedral geometry; the connectivity is indicated by the formula HO-O-S2-OH...

 (H2SO5) and peroxydisulfuric acid
Peroxydisulfuric acid
Peroxydisulfuric acid is a sulfur oxoacid with the chemical formula H2S2O8. It is also called Marshall's acid. In structural terms it can be written HO3SOOSO3H. It contains sulfur in its +6 oxidation state, but it also contains peroxide ions, which is why it appears to be in a higher oxidation...

s (H2S2O8), made from the action of SO3 on concentrated H2O2
Hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is the simplest peroxide and an oxidizer. Hydrogen peroxide is a clear liquid, slightly more viscous than water. In dilute solution, it appears colorless. With its oxidizing properties, hydrogen peroxide is often used as a bleach or cleaning agent...

, and H2SO4
Sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid is a strong mineral acid with the molecular formula . Its historical name is oil of vitriol. Pure sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive, colorless, viscous liquid. The salts of sulfuric acid are called sulfates...

 on concentrated H2O2 respectively.

Thiosulfate
Thiosulfate
Thiosulfate is an oxyanion of sulfur. The prefix thio indicates that thiosulfate ion is a sulfate ion with one oxygen replaced by a sulfur. Thiosulfate occurs naturally and is produced by certain biochemical processes...

 salts , sometimes referred as "hyposulfites", used in photographic fixing (HYPO) and as reducing agents, feature sulfur in two oxidation states. Sodium dithionite
Sodium dithionite
Sodium dithionite is a white crystalline powder with a weak sulfurous odor. It is a sodium salt of dithionous acid. Although it is stable under most conditions, it will decompose in hot water and in acid solutions...

, , contains the more highly reducing dithionite anion. Sodium dithionate
Sodium dithionate
For the sterilizing agent, see sodium metabisulfite. For the reducing agent, see sodium dithionite.Sodium dithionate Na2S2O6 is an important compound for inorganic chemistry. It is also known under names disodium dithionate, sodium hyposulfate, and sodium metabisulfate...

 (Na2S2O6) is the first member of the polythionic acid
Polythionic acid
Polythionic acid is an oxoacid which has a straight chain of sulfur atoms and has the chemical formula H2SnO6 . Trithionic acid , tetrathionic acid are simple examples. The compounds of n...

s (H2SnO6), where n can range from 3 to many.

Halides and oxyhalides


The two main sulfur fluorides are sulfur hexafluoride
Sulfur hexafluoride
Sulfur hexafluoride is an inorganic, colorless, odorless, and non-flammable greenhouse gas. has an octahedral geometry, consisting of six fluorine atoms attached to a central sulfur atom. It is a hypervalent molecule. Typical for a nonpolar gas, it is poorly soluble in water but soluble in...

, a dense gas used as nonreactive and nontoxic propellant, and sulfur tetrafluoride
Sulfur tetrafluoride
Sulfur tetrafluoride is the chemical compound with the formula SF4. This species exists as a gas at standard conditions. It is a corrosive species that releases dangerous HF upon exposure to water or moisture...

, a rarely used organic reagent that is highly toxic. Their chlorinated analogs are sulfur dichloride
Sulfur dichloride
Sulfur dichloride is the chemical compound with the formula SCl2. This cherry-red liquid is the simplest sulfur chloride and one of the most common. It is used as a precursor to organosulfur compounds.-Chlorination of sulfur:...

 and sulfur monochloride. Sulfuryl chloride
Sulfuryl chloride
Sulfuryl chloride is an inorganic compound with the formula SO2Cl2. At room temperature, it is a colorless liquid with a pungent odor. Sulfuryl chloride is not found in nature, as can be inferred from its rapid hydrolysis....

 and chlorosulfuric acid
Chlorosulfuric acid
Chlorosulfuric acid is the inorganic compound with the formula HSO3Cl. It is also known as chlorosulfonic acid. It is a distillable, colorless liquid that should be handled with care. It is a hygroscopic and a powerful lachrymator.-Structure and properties:Chlorosulfuric acid is a tetrahedral...

 are derivatives of sulfuric acid; thionyl chloride
Thionyl chloride
Thionyl chloride is an inorganic compound with the formula SOCl2. It is a reactive chemical reagent used in chlorination reactions. It is a colorless, distillable liquid at room temperature and pressure that decomposes above 140 °C. Thionyl chloride is sometimes confused with sulfuryl...

 (SOCl2) is a common reagent in organic synthesis
Organic synthesis
Organic synthesis is a special branch of chemical synthesis and is concerned with the construction of organic compounds via organic reactions. Organic molecules can often contain a higher level of complexity compared to purely inorganic compounds, so the synthesis of organic compounds has...

.

Pnictides


The most important S–N compound is the cage tetrasulfur tetranitride
Tetrasulfur tetranitride
Tetrasulfur tetranitride is an inorganic compound with the formula S4N4. This gold-poppy coloured solid is the most important binary sulfur nitride, which are compounds that contain only the elements sulfur and nitrogen. It is a precursor to many S-N compounds and has attracted wide interest for...

 (S4N4). Heating this compound gives polymeric sulfur nitride
Polythiazyl
Polythiazyl , x, was the first conducting inorganic polymer. In addition to being an electrical conductor, it was also found to be a superconductor at very low temperatures .-Structure and bonding:...

 ((SN)x), which has metallic properties even though it does not contain any metal
Metal
A metal , is an element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat. Metals are usually malleable and shiny, that is they reflect most of incident light...

 atoms. Thiocyanate
Thiocyanate
Thiocyanate is the anion [SCN]−. It is the conjugate base of thiocyanic acid. Common derivatives include the colourless salts potassium thiocyanate and sodium thiocyanate. Organic compounds containing the functional group SCN are also called thiocyanates...

s contain the SCN group. Oxidation of thiocyanate gives thiocyanogen
Thiocyanogen
Thiocyanogen, 2, is a pseudohalogen derived from the pseudohalide thiocyanate, [SCN]−. This hexatomic compound exhibits C2 point group symmetry and has the connectivity NCS-SCN. The oxidation ability is greater than bromine...

, (SCN)2 with the connectivity NCS-SCN. Phosphorus sulfide
Phosphorus sulfide
The Phosphorus sulfides comprise a family of inorganic compounds containing only phosphorus and sulfur. These compounds have the formula P4Sx where x is less than or equal to 10...

s are numerous, the most important commercially being the cages P4S10 and P4S3.

Metal sulfides



Many if not most minerals occur as sulfides. The principal ores of copper, zinc, nickel, cobalt, molybdenum and others are sulfides. These materials tend to be dark-colored semiconductor
Semiconductor
A semiconductor is a material with electrical conductivity due to electron flow intermediate in magnitude between that of a conductor and an insulator. This means a conductivity roughly in the range of 103 to 10−8 siemens per centimeter...

s that are not readily attacked by water or even many acids. They are formed, both geochemically and in the laboratory, by the reaction of hydrogen sulfide with metal salts to form the metal sulfides. The mineral galena
Galena
Galena is the natural mineral form of lead sulfide. It is the most important lead ore mineral.Galena is one of the most abundant and widely distributed sulfide minerals. It crystallizes in the cubic crystal system often showing octahedral forms...

 (PbS) was the first demonstrated semiconductor
Semiconductor
A semiconductor is a material with electrical conductivity due to electron flow intermediate in magnitude between that of a conductor and an insulator. This means a conductivity roughly in the range of 103 to 10−8 siemens per centimeter...

 and found a use as a signal rectifier
Rectifier
A rectifier is an electrical device that converts alternating current , which periodically reverses direction, to direct current , which flows in only one direction. The process is known as rectification...

 in the cat's whiskers of early crystal radios. The iron sulfide called pyrite
Pyrite
The mineral pyrite, or iron pyrite, is an iron sulfide with the formula FeS2. This mineral's metallic luster and pale-to-normal, brass-yellow hue have earned it the nickname fool's gold because of its resemblance to gold...

, the so-called "fool's gold," has the formula FeS2. The upgrading of these ores, usually by roasting
Smelting
Smelting is a form of extractive metallurgy; its main use is to produce a metal from its ore. This includes iron extraction from iron ore, and copper extraction and other base metals from their ores...

, is costly and environmentally hazardous. Sulfur corrodes many metals via the process called tarnishing.

Organic compounds


Some of the main classes of sulfur-containing organic compounds include the following:
  • Thiol
    Thiol
    In organic chemistry, a thiol is an organosulfur compound that contains a carbon-bonded sulfhydryl group...

    s or mercaptans (as they are mercury capturers as chelators) are the sulfur analogs of alcohol
    Alcohol
    In chemistry, an alcohol is an organic compound in which the hydroxy functional group is bound to a carbon atom. In particular, this carbon center should be saturated, having single bonds to three other atoms....

    s; treatment of thiols with base gives thiolate ions.
  • Thioether
    Thioether
    A thioether is a functional group in organosulfur chemistry with the connectivity C-S-C as shown on right. Like many other sulfur-containing compounds, volatile thioethers have foul odors. A thioether is similar to an ether except that it contains a sulfur atom in place of the oxygen...

    s are the sulfur analogs of ether
    Ether
    Ethers are a class of organic compounds that contain an ether group — an oxygen atom connected to two alkyl or aryl groups — of general formula R–O–R'. A typical example is the solvent and anesthetic diethyl ether, commonly referred to simply as "ether"...

    s.
  • Sulfonium
    Sulfonium
    A sulfonium ion, also known as sulphonium ion or sulfanium ion, is a positively charged ion featuring three organic substituents attached to sulfur. They have the formula [SR3]+...

     ions have three groups attached to a cationic sulfur center. Dimethylsulfoniopropionate
    Dimethylsulfoniopropionate
    Dimethylsulfoniopropionate , is an organosulfur compound with the formula 2S+CH2CH2COO−. This zwitterionic metabolite found in marine phytoplankton, seaweeds, and some species of terrestrial and aquatic vascular plants...

     (DMSP) is one such compound, important in the marine organic sulfur cycle
    Sulfur cycle
    The sulfur cycle are the collection of processes by which sulfur moves to and from minerals and living systems. Such biogeochemical cycles are important in geology because they affect many minerals...

    .
  • Sulfoxide
    Sulfoxide
    A sulfoxide is a chemical compound containing a sulfinyl functional group attached to two carbon atoms. Sulfoxides can be considered as oxidized sulfides...

    s and sulfone
    Sulfone
    A sulfone is a chemical compound containing a sulfonyl functional group attached to two carbon atoms. The central hexavalent sulfur atom is double bonded to each of two oxygen atoms and has a single bond to each of two carbon atoms, usually in two separate hydrocarbon substituents.-IUPAC name and...

    s are thioethers with one and two oxygen atoms attached to the sulfur atom, respectively. The simplest sulfoxide, dimethyl sulfoxide
    Dimethyl sulfoxide
    Dimethyl sulfoxide is an organosulfur compound with the formula 2SO. This colorless liquid is an important polar aprotic solvent that dissolves both polar and nonpolar compounds and is miscible in a wide range of organic solvents as well as water...

    , is a common solvent; a common sulfone is sulfolane
    Sulfolane
    Sulfolane is a clear, colorless liquid commonly used in the chemical industry as an extractive distillation solvent or reaction solvent. Sulfolane was originally developed by the Shell Oil Company in the 1960s as a solvent to purify butadiene...

    .
  • Sulfonic acid
    Sulfonic acid
    Sulfonic acid usually refers to a member of the class of organosulfur compounds with the general formula RS2–OH, where R is an alkyl or aryl. The formal part of acid, HS2–OH, are formally derivatives of the "parent" inorganic compound with the formula HSO2.-Preparation:Sulfonic acid is...

    s are used in many detergents.


Some inorganic compounds with carbon–sulfur bonds are known. Carbon disulfide
Carbon disulfide
Carbon disulfide is a colorless volatile liquid with the formula CS2. The compound is used frequently as a building block in organic chemistry as well as an industrial and chemical non-polar solvent...

, a volatile colorless liquid at standard conditions, is structurally similar to carbon dioxide; it is used as a solvent to make polymers. Whereas carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide , also called carbonous oxide, is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is slightly lighter than air. It is highly toxic to humans and animals in higher quantities, although it is also produced in normal animal metabolism in low quantities, and is thought to have some normal...

 is highly stable, carbon monosulfide
Carbon monosulfide
Carbon monosulfide is a chemical compound with the formula CS. This diatomic molecule is the sulfur analogue of carbon monoxide, and is unstable as a solid or a liquid, but it has been observed as a gas both in the laboratory and in the interstellar medium. The molecule resembles carbon monoxide...

 is unstable and has only been observed as a gas and in the interstellar medium.

Organosulfur compounds are responsible for the some of the unpleasant odors of decaying organic matter. They are used in the odoration of natural gas and cause the odor of garlic and skunk spray. Not all organic sulfur compounds smell unpleasant at all concentrations: the sulfur-containing monoterpenoid
Terpene
Terpenes are a large and diverse class of organic compounds, produced by a variety of plants, particularly conifers, though also by some insects such as termites or swallowtail butterflies, which emit terpenes from their osmeterium. They are often strong smelling and thus may have had a protective...

 grapefruit mercaptan in small concentrations is responsible for the characteristic scent of grapefruit, but has a generic thiol odor at larger concentrations. Sulfur mustard
Sulfur mustard
The sulfur mustards, or sulphur mustards, commonly known as mustard gas, are a class of related cytotoxic, vesicant chemical warfare agents with the ability to form large blisters on exposed skin. Pure sulfur mustards are colorless, viscous liquids at room temperature...

, a potent vesicant
Blister agent
A blister agent, or vesicant, is a chemical compound that causes severe skin, eye and mucosal pain and irritation. They are named for their ability to cause severe chemical burns, resulting in painful water blisters on the bodies of those affected...

, was used in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 as a disabling agent.

Sulfur can be used in organics as a structural component to harden synthetic polymers, in a way similar to the biological use of disulfide bridges to reinforce proteins (see biological below). In the most common type of industrial "curing" or hardening and strengthening of natural rubber
Rubber
Natural rubber, also called India rubber or caoutchouc, is an elastomer that was originally derived from latex, a milky colloid produced by some plants. The plants would be ‘tapped’, that is, an incision made into the bark of the tree and the sticky, milk colored latex sap collected and refined...

, elemental sulfur is heated with the rubber to the point that chemical reactions form disulfide
Disulfide
In chemistry, a disulfide usually refers to the structural unit composed of a linked pair of sulfur atoms. Disulfide usually refer to a chemical compound that contains a disulfide bond, such as diphenyl disulfide, C6H5S-SC6H5....

 bridges between isoprene
Isoprene
Isoprene , or 2-methyl-1,3-butadiene, is a common organic compound with the formula CH2=CCH=CH2. Under standard conditions it is a colorless liquid...

 units of the polymer. This process, patented in 1843, historically changed rubber into a major industrial product. The process was named vulcanization
Vulcanization
Vulcanization or vulcanisation is a chemical process for converting rubber or related polymers into more durable materials via the addition of sulfur or other equivalent "curatives." These additives modify the polymer by forming crosslinks between individual polymer chains. Vulcanized material is...

 after the Roman god of the forge and volcanism, in honor of both the heat and sulfur used. Although vulcanization is applied to other polymers, and sometimes with crosslinking agents other than sulfur, variants of sulfur/rubber vulcanization continue to be used in producing automobile tires and other elastomer products.

Antiquity


Being abundantly available in native form, sulfur (Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 sulphur) was known in ancient times and is referred to in the Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 (Genesis). English translations of the Bible
English translations of the Bible
The efforts of translating the Bible from its original languages into over 2,000 others have spanned more than two millennia. Partial translations of the Bible into languages of the English people can be traced back to the end of the 7th century, including translations into Old English and Middle...

 commonly referred to burning sulfur as "brimstone", giving rise to the name of 'fire-and-brimstone
Fire and brimstone
Fire and brimstone is an idiomatic expression of signs of God's wrath in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. In the Bible, they often appear in reference to the fate of the unfaithful. "Brimstone," possibly the ancient name for sulfur, evokes the acrid odor of volcanic activity...

' sermon
Sermon
A sermon is an oration by a prophet or member of the clergy. Sermons address a Biblical, theological, religious, or moral topic, usually expounding on a type of belief, law or behavior within both past and present contexts...

s, in which listeners are reminded of the fate of eternal damnation
Damnation
Damnation is the concept of everlasting divine punishment and/or disgrace, especially the punishment for sin as threatened by God . A damned being "in damnation" is said to be either in Hell, or living in a state wherein they are divorced from Heaven and/or in a state of disgrace from God's favor...

 that await the unbelieving and unrepentant. It is from this part of the Bible that Hell
Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

 is implied to "smell of sulfur" (likely due to its association with volcanic activity). According to the Ebers Papyrus
Ebers papyrus
The Ebers Papyrus, also known as Papyrus Ebers, is an Egyptian medical papyrus dating to circa 1550 BC. Among the oldest and most important medical papyri of ancient Egypt, it was purchased at Luxor, in the winter of 1873–74 by Georg Ebers...

, a sulfur ointment was used in ancient Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 to treat granular eyelids. Sulfur was used for fumigation in preclassical Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

; this is mentioned in the Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

. Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 discusses sulfur in book 35 of his Natural History, saying that its best-known source is the island of Melos. He mentions its use for fumigation, medicine, and bleaching cloth.

A natural form of sulfur known as shiliuhuang was known in China since the 6th century BC and found in Hanzhong
Hanzhong
Hanzhong is a municipality in southwest Shaanxi Province, China, occupying a historically significant valley in the mountains between the Xi'an area, home to many Chinese capitals, and the fertile but isolated Sichuan Basin...

. By the 3rd century, the Chinese discovered that sulfur could be extracted from pyrite
Pyrite
The mineral pyrite, or iron pyrite, is an iron sulfide with the formula FeS2. This mineral's metallic luster and pale-to-normal, brass-yellow hue have earned it the nickname fool's gold because of its resemblance to gold...

. Chinese Daoists were interested in sulfur's flammability and its reactivity with certain metals, yet its earliest practical uses were found in traditional Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to a broad range of medicine practices sharing common theoretical concepts which have been developed in China and are based on a tradition of more than 2,000 years, including various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage , exercise , and dietary therapy...

. A Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 military treatise of 1044 AD described different formulas for Chinese black powder, which is a mixture of potassium nitrate
Potassium nitrate
Potassium nitrate is a chemical compound with the formula KNO3. It is an ionic salt of potassium ions K+ and nitrate ions NO3−.It occurs as a mineral niter and is a natural solid source of nitrogen. Its common names include saltpetre , from medieval Latin sal petræ: "stone salt" or possibly "Salt...

 , charcoal
Charcoal
Charcoal is the dark grey residue consisting of carbon, and any remaining ash, obtained by removing water and other volatile constituents from animal and vegetation substances. Charcoal is usually produced by slow pyrolysis, the heating of wood or other substances in the absence of oxygen...

, and sulfur.

Early alchemists
Alchemy
Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners’ claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base...

 gave sulfur its own alchemical symbol
Alchemical symbol
Alchemical symbols, originally devised as part of alchemy, were used to denote some elements and some compounds until the 18th century. Note that while notation like this was mostly standardized, style and symbol varied between alchemists, so this page lists the most common.-Three primes:According...

 which was a triangle at the top of a cross.
In traditional medical skin treatment which predates modern era of scientific medicine, elemental sulfur has been used mainly as part of creams to alleviate various conditions such as scabies
Scabies
Scabies , known colloquially as the seven-year itch, is a contagious skin infection that occurs among humans and other animals. It is caused by a tiny and usually not directly visible parasite, the mite Sarcoptes scabiei, which burrows under the host's skin, causing intense allergic itching...

, ringworm, psoriasis
Psoriasis
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that appears on the skin. It occurs when the immune system mistakes the skin cells as a pathogen, and sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells. Psoriasis is not contagious. However, psoriasis has been linked to an increased risk of...

, eczema
Eczema
Eczema is a form of dermatitis, or inflammation of the epidermis . In England, an estimated 5.7 million or about one in every nine people have been diagnosed with the disease by a clinician at some point in their lives.The term eczema is broadly applied to a range of persistent skin conditions...

 and acne
Acne
Acne is a general term used for acneiform eruptions. It is usually used as a synonym for acne vulgaris, but may also refer to:*Acne aestivalis*Acne conglobata*Acne cosmetica*Acne fulminans*Acne keloidalis nuchae*Acne mechanica...

. The mechanism of action is not known, although elemental sulfur does oxidize slowly to sulfurous acid, which in turn (through the action of sulfite
Sulfite
Sulfites are compounds that contain the sulfite ion SO. The sulfite ion is the conjugate base of bisulfite. Although the acid itself is elusive, its salts are widely used.-Structure:...

) acts as a mild reducing and antibacterial agent.

Modern times



In 1777, Antoine Lavoisier
Antoine Lavoisier
Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier , the "father of modern chemistry", was a French nobleman prominent in the histories of chemistry and biology...

 helped convince the scientific community that sulfur was an element, not a compound. With the sulfur from Sicily being principally controlled by the French market, a debate ensued about the amount of sulfur France and Britain got. This led to a bloodless confrontation between the two sides in 1840. In 1867, sulfur was discovered in underground deposits in Louisiana
Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

 and Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

. The highly successful Frasch process
Frasch process
The Frasch process is a method to extract sulfur from underground deposits. It is the only economic method of recovering sulfur from elemental deposits...

 was developed to extract this resource.

In the late 18th century, furniture
Furniture
Furniture is the mass noun for the movable objects intended to support various human activities such as seating and sleeping in beds, to hold objects at a convenient height for work using horizontal surfaces above the ground, or to store things...

 makers used molten sulfur to produce decorative inlay
Inlay
Inlay is a decorative technique of inserting pieces of contrasting, often coloured materials into depressions in a base object to form patterns or pictures that normally are flush with the matrix. In a wood matrix, inlays commonly use wood veneers, but other materials like shells, mother-of-pearl,...

s in their craft. Because of the sulfur dioxide
Sulfur dioxide
Sulfur dioxide is the chemical compound with the formula . It is released by volcanoes and in various industrial processes. Since coal and petroleum often contain sulfur compounds, their combustion generates sulfur dioxide unless the sulfur compounds are removed before burning the fuel...

 produced during the process of melting sulfur, the craft of sulfur inlays was soon abandoned. Molten sulfur is sometimes still used for setting steel bolts into drilled concrete holes where high shock resistance is desired for floor-mounted equipment attachment points. Pure powdered sulfur was used as a medicinal tonic and laxative. With the advent of the contact process
Contact process
The contact process is the current method of producing sulphuric acid in the high concentrations needed for industrial processes. Platinum was formerly employed as a catalyst for the reaction, but as it is susceptible to poisoning by arsenic impurities in the sulfur feedstock, vanadium oxide is...

, the majority of sulfur today is used to make sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid is a strong mineral acid with the molecular formula . Its historical name is oil of vitriol. Pure sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive, colorless, viscous liquid. The salts of sulfuric acid are called sulfates...

 for a wide range of uses, particularly fertilizer.

Spelling and etymology


Sulfur comes from the Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 soufre, apparently referring from a root meaning "to burn".
The element was traditionally spelled sulphur in the United Kingdom (since the 14th century), most of the Commonwealth including India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, Malaysia, South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

, and Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

, along with the rest of the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

 and Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

. Sulfur is used in the United States, while both spellings are used in Canada and the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

.

However, the IUPAC
International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry
The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry is an international federation of National Adhering Organizations that represents chemists in individual countries. It is a member of the International Council for Science . The international headquarters of IUPAC is located in Zürich,...

 adopted the spelling sulfur in 1990, as did the Royal Society of Chemistry
Royal Society of Chemistry
The Royal Society of Chemistry is a learned society in the United Kingdom with the goal of "advancing the chemical sciences." It was formed in 1980 from the merger of the Chemical Society, the Royal Institute of Chemistry, the Faraday Society and the Society for Analytical Chemistry with a new...

 Nomenclature Committee in 1992. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority
Qualifications and Curriculum Authority
The Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency is an exempt charity, and an executive non-departmental public body of the Department for Children, Schools and Families...

 for England and Wales recommended its use in 2000, and it now appears in GCSE exams. The Oxford Dictionaries note that "In chemistry... the -f- spelling is now the standard form in all related words in the field in both British and US contexts"

In Latin, the word is variously written sulpur, sulphur, and sulfur (the Oxford Latin Dictionary lists the spellings in this order). It is an original Latin name and not a Classical Greek loan, so the ph variant does not denote the Greek letter φ (phi
Phi
Phi may refer to:In language:*Phi, the Greek letter Φ,φ, the symbol for voiceless bilabial fricativeIn mathematics:*The Golden ratio*Euler's totient function*A statistical measure of association reported with the chi-squared test...

). Sulfur in Greek is thion (θείον), whence comes the prefix thio-. The simplification of the Latin words p or ph to an f appears to have taken place towards the end of the classical period.

Sulfuric acid


Elemental sulfur is mainly used as a precursor to other chemicals. Approximately 85% (1989) is converted to sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid is a strong mineral acid with the molecular formula . Its historical name is oil of vitriol. Pure sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive, colorless, viscous liquid. The salts of sulfuric acid are called sulfates...

 (H
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

2SO4):
2 S + 3 O2 + 2 H2O → 2 H2SO4

With sulfuric acid being central importance to the world's economies
World economy
The world economy, or global economy, generally refers to the economy, which is based on economies of all of the world's countries, national economies. Also global economy can be seen as the economy of global society and national economies – as economies of local societies, making the global one....

, its production and consumption is an indicator of a nation's industrial development. For example with 36.1 million metric tons in 2007, the United States produces more sulfuric acid every year than any other inorganic industrial chemical. The principal use for the acid is the extraction of phosphate ores for the production of fertilizer manufacturing. Other applications of sulfuric acid include oil refining, wastewater processing, and mineral extraction.

Other large scale sulfur chemicals


Sulfur reacts directly with methane to give carbon disulfide
Carbon disulfide
Carbon disulfide is a colorless volatile liquid with the formula CS2. The compound is used frequently as a building block in organic chemistry as well as an industrial and chemical non-polar solvent...

, which is used to manufacture cellophane
Cellophane
Cellophane is a thin, transparent sheet made of regenerated cellulose. Its low permeability to air, oils, greases, bacteria and water makes it useful for food packaging...

 and rayon
Rayon
Rayon is a manufactured regenerated cellulose fiber. Because it is produced from naturally occurring polymers, it is neither a truly synthetic fiber nor a natural fiber; it is a semi-synthetic or artificial fiber. Rayon is known by the names viscose rayon and art silk in the textile industry...

. One of the direct uses of sulfur is in vulcanization
Vulcanization
Vulcanization or vulcanisation is a chemical process for converting rubber or related polymers into more durable materials via the addition of sulfur or other equivalent "curatives." These additives modify the polymer by forming crosslinks between individual polymer chains. Vulcanized material is...

 of rubber, where polysulfide
Polysulfide
Polysulfides are a class of chemical compounds containing chains of sulfur atoms. There are two main classes of polysulfides: anions and organic polysulfides. Anions have the general formula Sn2−. These anions are the conjugate bases of the hydrogen polysulfides H2nSn...

s crosslink organic polymers.

Sulfite
Sulfite
Sulfites are compounds that contain the sulfite ion SO. The sulfite ion is the conjugate base of bisulfite. Although the acid itself is elusive, its salts are widely used.-Structure:...

s are heavily used to bleach paper
Paper
Paper is a thin material mainly used for writing upon, printing upon, drawing or for packaging. It is produced by pressing together moist fibers, typically cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets....

 and as preservatives in dried fruit
Fruit
In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

. Many surfactant
Surfactant
Surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension of a liquid, the interfacial tension between two liquids, or that between a liquid and a solid...

s and detergents, e.g. sodium lauryl sulfate, are produced are sulfate derivatives. Calcium sulfate
Calcium sulfate
Calcium sulfate is a common laboratory and industrial chemical. In the form of γ-anhydrite , it is used as a desiccant. It is also used as a coagulant in products like tofu. In the natural state, unrefined calcium sulfate is a translucent, crystalline white rock...

, gypsum, (CaSO4·2H2O) is mined on the scale of 100 million tons each year for use in Portland cement
Portland cement
Portland cement is the most common type of cement in general use around the world because it is a basic ingredient of concrete, mortar, stucco and most non-specialty grout...

 and fertilizers.

When silver-based photography
Photography
Photography is the art, science and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film...

 was widespread, sodium and ammonium thiosulfate
Sodium thiosulfate
Sodium thiosulfate , also spelled sodium thiosulphate, is a colorless crystalline compound that is more familiar as the pentahydrate, Na2S2O3•5H2O, an efflorescent, monoclinic crystalline substance also called sodium hyposulfite or “hypo.”...

 were widely used as "fixing agents."
Sulfur is a component of gunpowder
Gunpowder
Gunpowder, also known since in the late 19th century as black powder, was the first chemical explosive and the only one known until the mid 1800s. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate - with the sulfur and charcoal acting as fuels, while the saltpeter works as an oxidizer...

.

Fertilizer


Sulfur is increasingly used as a component of fertilizer
Fertilizer
Fertilizer is any organic or inorganic material of natural or synthetic origin that is added to a soil to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants. A recent assessment found that about 40 to 60% of crop yields are attributable to commercial fertilizer use...

s. The most important form of sulfur for fertilizer is the mineral calcium sulfate
Calcium sulfate
Calcium sulfate is a common laboratory and industrial chemical. In the form of γ-anhydrite , it is used as a desiccant. It is also used as a coagulant in products like tofu. In the natural state, unrefined calcium sulfate is a translucent, crystalline white rock...

. Elemental sulfur is hydrophobic (that is, it is not soluble in water) and, therefore, cannot be directly utilized by plants. Over time, soil bacteria can convert it to soluble derivatives, which can then be utilized by plants. Sulfur improves the use efficiency of other essential plant nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus. Biologically produced sulfur particles are naturally hydrophilic due to a biopolymer coating. This sulfur is, therefore, easier to disperse over the land (via spraying as a diluted slurry), and results in a faster release.

Plant requirements for sulfur are equal to or exceed those for phosphorus. It is one of the major nutrients essential for plant growth, root nodule formation of legumes and plants protection mechanisms. Sulfur deficiency has become widespread in many countries in Europe. Because atmospheric inputs of sulfur will continue to decrease, the deficit in the sulfur input/output is likely to increase, unless sulfur fertilizers are used.

Fine chemicals



Organosulfur compounds are used in pharmaceuticals, dyestuffs, and agrochemicals. Many drugs contain sulfur, early examples being antibacterial sulfonamides
Sulfonamide (medicine)
Sulfonamide or sulphonamide is the basis of several groups of drugs. The original antibacterial sulfonamides are synthetic antimicrobial agents that contain the sulfonamide group. Some sulfonamides are also devoid of antibacterial activity, e.g., the anticonvulsant sultiame...

, known as sulfa drugs. Sulfur is a part of many bacterial defense molecules. Most β-lactam antibiotics, including the penicillin
Penicillin
Penicillin is a group of antibiotics derived from Penicillium fungi. They include penicillin G, procaine penicillin, benzathine penicillin, and penicillin V....

s, cephalosporins and monolactams contain sulfur.

Magnesium sulfate
Magnesium sulfate
Magnesium sulfate is a chemical compound containing magnesium, sulfur and oxygen, with the formula MgSO4. It is often encountered as the heptahydrate epsomite , commonly called Epsom salt, from the town of Epsom in Surrey, England, where the salt was distilled from the springs that arise where the...

, known as Epsom salts when in hydrated crystal form, can be used as a laxative
Laxative
Laxatives are foods, compounds, or drugs taken to induce bowel movements or to loosen the stool, most often taken to treat constipation. Certain stimulant, lubricant, and saline laxatives are used to evacuate the colon for rectal and/or bowel examinations, and may be supplemented by enemas under...

, a bath additive, an exfoliant, magnesium
Magnesium
Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg, atomic number 12, and common oxidation number +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and ninth in the known universe as a whole...

 supplement for plants, or (when in dehydrated form) as a desiccant
Desiccant
A desiccant is a hygroscopic substance that induces or sustains a state of dryness in its local vicinity in a moderately well-sealed container....

.

Fungicide and pesticide


Elemental sulfur is one of the oldest fungicides and pesticides. "Dusting sulfur," elemental sulfur in powdered form, is a common fungicide for grapes, strawberry, many vegetables and several other crops. It has a good efficacy against a wide range of powdery mildew diseases as well as black spot. In organic production, sulfur is the most important fungicide. It is the only fungicide used in organically farmed apple production against the main disease apple scab
Apple scab
Apple scab is a disease to Malus trees, such as apple trees, caused by the ascomycete fungus Venturia inaequalis. The disease manifests as dull black or grey-brown lesions on the surface of tree leaves, buds or fruits. Lesions may also appear less frequently on the woody tissues of the tree. Fruits...

 under colder conditions. Biosulfur (biologically produced elemental sulfur with hydrophilic characteristics) can be used well for these applications.

Standard-formulation dusting sulfur is applied to crops with a sulfur duster or from a dusting plane. Wettable sulfur is the commercial name for dusting sulfur formulated with additional ingredients to make it water miscible
Miscibility
Miscibility is the property of liquids to mix in all proportions, forming a homogeneous solution. In principle, the term applies also to other phases , but the main focus is usually on the solubility of one liquid in another...

. It has similar applications and is used as a fungicide
Fungicide
Fungicides are chemical compounds or biological organisms used to kill or inhibit fungi or fungal spores. Fungi can cause serious damage in agriculture, resulting in critical losses of yield, quality and profit. Fungicides are used both in agriculture and to fight fungal infections in animals...

 against mildew
Mildew
Mildew refers to certain kinds of molds or fungi.In Old English, it meant honeydew , and later came to mean mildew in the modern sense of mold or fungus....

 and other mold-related problems with plants and soil.

Elemental sulfur powder is used as an "organic
Organic farming
Organic farming is the form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control to maintain soil productivity and control pests on a farm...

" (i.e. "green") insecticide
Insecticide
An insecticide is a pesticide used against insects. They include ovicides and larvicides used against the eggs and larvae of insects respectively. Insecticides are used in agriculture, medicine, industry and the household. The use of insecticides is believed to be one of the major factors behind...

 (actually an acaricide) against tick
Tick
Ticks are small arachnids in the order Ixodida, along with mites, constitute the subclass Acarina. Ticks are ectoparasites , living by hematophagy on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians...

s and mites
MITES
MITES, or Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science, is a highly selective six-week summer program for rising high school seniors held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Its purpose is to expose students from minority, or otherwise disadvantaged backgrounds, to the fields of...

. A common method of use is to dust clothing or limbs with sulfur powder.

Diluted solutions of lime sulfur
Lime sulfur
In horticulture, lime sulfur is a mixture of calcium polysulfides formed by reacting calcium hydroxide with sulfur, used in pest control. It can be prepared by boiling calcium hydroxide and sulfur together with a small amount of surfactant...

 (made by combinding calcium hydroxide
Calcium hydroxide
Calcium hydroxide, traditionally called slaked lime, is an inorganic compound with the chemical formula Ca2. It is a colourless crystal or white powder and is obtained when calcium oxide is mixed, or "slaked" with water. It has many names including hydrated lime, builders lime, slack lime, cal, or...

 with elemental sulfur in water), are used as a dip for pets to destroy ringworm (fungus), mange
Mange
Mange is the common name for a class of persistent contagious skin diseases caused by parasitic mites. Since mites also infect plants, birds, and reptiles, the term "mange," suggesting poor condition of the hairy coat due to the infection, is sometimes reserved only for pathological...

 and other dermatoses
Cutaneous conditions
There are many conditions of or affecting the human integumentary system—the organ system that comprises the entire surface of the body and includes skin, hair, nails, and related muscle and glands.- Diseases :...

 and parasites
Parasitism
Parasitism is a type of symbiotic relationship between organisms of different species where one organism, the parasite, benefits at the expense of the other, the host. Traditionally parasite referred to organisms with lifestages that needed more than one host . These are now called macroparasites...

.

Bacteriocide in winemaking and food preservation


Small amounts of sulfur dioxide
Sulfur dioxide
Sulfur dioxide is the chemical compound with the formula . It is released by volcanoes and in various industrial processes. Since coal and petroleum often contain sulfur compounds, their combustion generates sulfur dioxide unless the sulfur compounds are removed before burning the fuel...

 gas addition (or equivalent potassium metabisulfite
Potassium metabisulfite
Potassium metabisulfite, K2S2O5, also known as potassium pyrosulfite, is a white crystalline powder with a pungent sulfur odour. The main use for the chemical is as an antioxidant or chemical sterilant. It is a disulfite and is chemically very similar to sodium metabisulfite, with which it is...

 addition) to fermented wine to produce traces of sulfurous acid
Sulfurous acid
Sulfurous acid is the chemical compound with the formula H2SO3. There is no evidence that sulfurous acid exists in solution, but the molecule has been detected in the gas phase...

 (produced when SO2 reacts with water) and its sulfite
Sulfite
Sulfites are compounds that contain the sulfite ion SO. The sulfite ion is the conjugate base of bisulfite. Although the acid itself is elusive, its salts are widely used.-Structure:...

 salts in the mixture, has been called "the most powerful tool in winemaking.". The sulfites absorb oxygen to inhibit aerobic
Aerobic
Aerobic is a word that means "requiring air", where "air" usually means oxygen.Aerobic may also refer to:* Aerobic exercise, prolonged exercise of moderate intensity* Aerobics, a form of aerobic exercise...

 bacterial growth after the yeast-fermentation stage in winemaking
Winemaking
Winemaking, or vinification, is the production of wine, starting with selection of the grapes or other produce and ending with bottling the finished wine. Although most wine is made from grapes, it may also be made from other fruit or non-toxic plant material...

, that otherwise would turn ethanol into acetic acid and thus cause the wine to "sour." Without this preservative step, indefinite refrigeration of the product before consumption is usually required. Similar methods go back into antiquity but modern historical mentions of the practice go to the fifteenth century. The practice is used by large industrial wine producers and small organic wine producers alike.

Sulfur dioxide and various sulfites have been used for their antioxidant antibacterial preservative properties in many other parts of the food industry also. The practice has declined since reports of a allergy-like reaction of some persons to sulfites in foods
Sulfite
Sulfites are compounds that contain the sulfite ion SO. The sulfite ion is the conjugate base of bisulfite. Although the acid itself is elusive, its salts are widely used.-Structure:...

.

Protein and organic cofactors


Sulfur is an essential component of all living cells
Cell (biology)
The cell is the basic structural and functional unit of all known living organisms. It is the smallest unit of life that is classified as a living thing, and is often called the building block of life. The Alberts text discusses how the "cellular building blocks" move to shape developing embryos....

. It is the seventh or eighth most abundant element in the human body by weight, being about as common as potassium
Potassium
Potassium is the chemical element with the symbol K and atomic number 19. Elemental potassium is a soft silvery-white alkali metal that oxidizes rapidly in air and is very reactive with water, generating sufficient heat to ignite the hydrogen emitted in the reaction.Potassium and sodium are...

, and a little more common than sodium or chlorine. A 70 kg human body contains about 140 grams of sulfur.

In plant
Plant
Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...

s and animal
Animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

s, the amino acid
Amino acid
Amino acids are molecules containing an amine group, a carboxylic acid group and a side-chain that varies between different amino acids. The key elements of an amino acid are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen...

s cysteine
Cysteine
Cysteine is an α-amino acid with the chemical formula HO2CCHCH2SH. It is a non-essential amino acid, which means that it is biosynthesized in humans. Its codons are UGU and UGC. The side chain on cysteine is thiol, which is polar and thus cysteine is usually classified as a hydrophilic amino acid...

 and methionine
Methionine
Methionine is an α-amino acid with the chemical formula HO2CCHCH2CH2SCH3. This essential amino acid is classified as nonpolar. This amino-acid is coded by the codon AUG, also known as the initiation codon, since it indicates mRNA's coding region where translation into protein...

 contain most of the sulfur. The element is thus present in all polypeptides, protein
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

s, and enzyme
Enzyme
Enzymes are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. In enzymatic reactions, the molecules at the beginning of the process, called substrates, are converted into different molecules, called products. Almost all chemical reactions in a biological cell need enzymes in order to occur at rates...

s that contain these amino acids. Disulfide bond
Disulfide bond
In chemistry, a disulfide bond is a covalent bond, usually derived by the coupling of two thiol groups. The linkage is also called an SS-bond or disulfide bridge. The overall connectivity is therefore R-S-S-R. The terminology is widely used in biochemistry...

s (S-S bonds) formed between cysteine residues in peptide chains are very important in protein assembly and structure. These covalent bonds between peptide chains confer extra toughness and rigidity. For example, the high strength of feathers and hair is in part due to their high content of S-S bonds and their high content of cysteine and sulfur. Eggs are high in sulfur because large amounts of the element are necessary for feather formation, and the characteristic odor of rotting eggs is due to hydrogen sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide is the chemical compound with the formula . It is a colorless, very poisonous, flammable gas with the characteristic foul odor of expired eggs perceptible at concentrations as low as 0.00047 parts per million...

. The high disulfide bond content of hair and feathers contributes to their indigestibility and to their characteristic disagreeable odor when burned.

Homocysteine
Homocysteine
Homocysteine is a non-protein amino acid with the formula HSCH2CH2CHCO2H. It is a homologue of the amino acid cysteine, differing by an additional methylene group. It is biosynthesized from methionine by the removal of its terminal Cε methyl group...

 and taurine are other sulfur-containing acids that are similar in structure, but which are not coded by DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

, and are not part of the primary structure
Primary structure
The primary structure of peptides and proteins refers to the linear sequence of its amino acid structural units. The term "primary structure" was first coined by Linderstrøm-Lang in 1951...

 of proteins. Many important cellular enzymes use prosthetic groups ending with -SH moieties to handle reactions involving acyl-containing biochemicals: two common examples from basic metabolism are coenzyme A
Coenzyme A
Coenzyme A is a coenzyme, notable for its role in the synthesis and oxidation of fatty acids, and the oxidation of pyruvate in the citric acid cycle. All sequenced genomes encode enzymes that use coenzyme A as a substrate, and around 4% of cellular enzymes use it as a substrate...

 and alpha-lipoic acid. Two of the 13 classical vitamins, biotin
Biotin
Biotin, also known as Vitamin H or Coenzyme R, is a water-soluble B-complex vitamin discovered by Bateman in 1916. It is composed of a ureido ring fused with a tetrahydrothiophene ring. A valeric acid substituent is attached to one of the carbon atoms of the tetrahydrothiophene ring...

 and thiamine
Thiamine
Thiamine or thiamin or vitamin B1 , named as the "thio-vitamine" is a water-soluble vitamin of the B complex. First named aneurin for the detrimental neurological effects if not present in the diet, it was eventually assigned the generic descriptor name vitamin B1. Its phosphate derivatives are...

 contain sulfur, with the latter being named for its sulfur content. Sulfur plays an important part, as a carrier of reducing hydrogen and its electrons, for cellular repair of oxidation. Reduced glutathione
Glutathione
Glutathione is a tripeptide that contains an unusual peptide linkage between the amine group of cysteine and the carboxyl group of the glutamate side-chain...

, a sulfur-containing tripeptide, is a reducing agent through its sulfhydryl (-SH) moiety derived from cysteine
Cysteine
Cysteine is an α-amino acid with the chemical formula HO2CCHCH2SH. It is a non-essential amino acid, which means that it is biosynthesized in humans. Its codons are UGU and UGC. The side chain on cysteine is thiol, which is polar and thus cysteine is usually classified as a hydrophilic amino acid...

. The thioredoxin
Thioredoxin
Thioredoxin is a class of small redox proteins known to be present in all organisms. It plays a role in many important biological processes. In humans, it is encoded by the TXN gene. Loss-of-function mutation of either of the two human thioredoxin genes is lethal at the four-cell stage of the...

s, a class of small protein essential to all known life, using neighboring pairs of reduced cysteines to act as general protein reducing agents, to similar effect.

Methanogenesis
Methanogenesis
Methanogenesis or biomethanation is the formation of methane by microbes known as methanogens. Organisms capable of producing methane have been identified only from the domain Archaea, a group phylogenetically distinct from both eukaryotes and bacteria, although many live in close association with...

, the route to most of the world's methane, is a multistep biochemical transformation of carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

. This conversion requires several organosulfur cofactors. These include coenzyme M
Coenzyme M
Coenzyme M is a coenzyme required for methyl-transfer reactions in the metabolism of methanogens. The coenzyme is an anion with the formula . It is named 2-mercaptoethanesulfonate and abbreviated HS–CoM. The cation is unimportant, but the sodium salt is most available...

, CH3SCH2CH2SO3, the immediate precursor to methane
Methane
Methane is a chemical compound with the chemical formula . It is the simplest alkane, the principal component of natural gas, and probably the most abundant organic compound on earth. The relative abundance of methane makes it an attractive fuel...

.

Metalloproteins and inorganic cofactors


Inorganic sulfur forms a part of iron-sulfur cluster
Iron-sulfur cluster
For biological Fe-S clusters, see iron-sulfur proteins.Iron-sulfur clusters are ensembles of iron and sulfide centres. Fe-S clusters are most often discussed in the context of the biological role for iron-sulfur proteins. Many Fe-S clusters are known in the area of organometallic chemistry and as...

s as well as many copper, nickel, and iron proteins. Most pervasive are the ferrodoxins, which serve as electron shuttles in cells. In bacteria, the important nitrogenase
Nitrogenase
Nitrogenases are enzymes used by some organisms to fix atmospheric nitrogen gas . It is the only known family of enzymes that accomplish this process. Dinitrogen is quite inert because of the strength of its N-N triple bond...

 enzymes contains an Fe-Mo-S cluster, is a catalyst that performs the important function of nitrogen fixation
Nitrogen fixation
Nitrogen fixation is the natural process, either biological or abiotic, by which nitrogen in the atmosphere is converted into ammonia . This process is essential for life because fixed nitrogen is required to biosynthesize the basic building blocks of life, e.g., nucleotides for DNA and RNA and...

, converting atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia that can be used by microorganisms and plants to make proteins, DNA, RNA, alkaloids, and the other organic nitrogen compounds necessary for life.

Sulfur metabolism



Sulfur may serve as energy (chemical food) source for bacteria
Bacteria
Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

 that use hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in the place of water as the electron
Electron
The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative elementary electric charge. It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle. An electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton...

 donor in a primitive photosynthesis
Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight. Photosynthesis occurs in plants, algae, and many species of bacteria, but not in archaea. Photosynthetic organisms are called photoautotrophs, since they can...

-like process in which oxygen is the electron receptor. The photosynthetic
Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight. Photosynthesis occurs in plants, algae, and many species of bacteria, but not in archaea. Photosynthetic organisms are called photoautotrophs, since they can...

 green sulfur bacteria
Green sulfur bacteria
The green sulfur bacteria are a family of obligately anaerobic photoautotrophic bacteria. Most closely related to the distant Bacteroidetes, they are accordingly assigned their own phylum....

 and purple sulfur bacteria
Purple sulfur bacteria
The purple sulfur bacteria are a group of Proteobacteria capable of photosynthesis, collectively referred to as purple bacteria. They are anaerobic or microaerophilic, and are often found in hot springs or stagnant water. Unlike plants, algae, and cyanobacteria, they do not use water as their...

 and some chemolithotrophs use elemental oxygen to carry out such oxidization of hydrogen sulfide to produce elemental sulfur (S0), oxidation state = 0. Primitive bacteria which live around deep ocean volcanic vents oxidize hydrogen sulfide in this way with oxygen: see giant tube worm
Giant tube worm
Giant tube worms, Riftia pachyptila, are marine invertebrates in the phylum Annelida related to tube worms commonly found in the intertidal and pelagic zones...

 for an example of large organisms (via bacteria) making metabolic use of hydrogen sulfide as food to be oxidized.

The so-called sulfate-reducing bacteria
Sulfate-reducing bacteria
Sulfate-reducing bacteria are those bacteria and archaea that can obtain energy by oxidizing organic compounds or molecular hydrogen while reducing sulfate to hydrogen sulfide...

, by contrast, "breathe sulfate" instead of oxygen. They use sulfur as the electron acceptor, and reduce various oxidized sulfur compounds back into sulfide, often into hydrogen sulfide. They can grow on a number of other partially oxidized sulfur compounds (e. g. thiosulfates, thionates, polysulfides, sulfites). The hydrogen sulfide produced by these bacteria is responsible for some of the smell of intestinal gases (flatus) and decomposition products.

Sulfur is absorbed by plant
Plant
Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...

s via the root
Root
In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. This is not always the case, however, since a root can also be aerial or aerating . Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either...

s from soil as the sulfate
Sulfate
In inorganic chemistry, a sulfate is a salt of sulfuric acid.-Chemical properties:...

 and transported as a phosphate ester. Sulfate is reduced to sulfide via sulfite before it is incorporated into cysteine
Cysteine
Cysteine is an α-amino acid with the chemical formula HO2CCHCH2SH. It is a non-essential amino acid, which means that it is biosynthesized in humans. Its codons are UGU and UGC. The side chain on cysteine is thiol, which is polar and thus cysteine is usually classified as a hydrophilic amino acid...

 and other organosulfur compounds.
SO42– → SO32– → H2S → cysteine

Precautions



Elemental sulfur is non-toxic, as generally are the soluble sulfate
Sulfate
In inorganic chemistry, a sulfate is a salt of sulfuric acid.-Chemical properties:...

 salts, such as Epsom salts. Soluble sulfate salts are poorly absorbed and laxitive. However, when injected parenterally, they are freely filtered by the kidneys and elimimated with very little toxicity in multi-gram amounts.

When sulfur burns in air it produces sulfur dioxide
Sulfur dioxide
Sulfur dioxide is the chemical compound with the formula . It is released by volcanoes and in various industrial processes. Since coal and petroleum often contain sulfur compounds, their combustion generates sulfur dioxide unless the sulfur compounds are removed before burning the fuel...

. In water, this gas produces sulfurous acid and sulfites which are antioxidants, inhibiting the growth of aerobic bacteria, and allowing it to be used as a food additive
Food additive
Food additives are substances added to food to preserve flavor or enhance its taste and appearance.Some additives have been used for centuries; for example, preserving food by pickling , salting, as with bacon, preserving sweets or using sulfur dioxide as in some wines...

 in small amounts. However, at high concentrations these acids harm the lungs, eyes or other tissues
Biological tissue
Tissue is a cellular organizational level intermediate between cells and a complete organism. A tissue is an ensemble of cells, not necessarily identical, but from the same origin, that together carry out a specific function. These are called tissues because of their identical functioning...

. In organisms without lungs such as insects or plants, it otherwise prevents respiration
Respiration (physiology)
'In physiology, respiration is defined as the transport of oxygen from the outside air to the cells within tissues, and the transport of carbon dioxide in the opposite direction...

 in high concentrations. Sulfur trioxide
Sulfur trioxide
Sulfur trioxide is the chemical compound with the formula SO3. In the gaseous form, this species is a significant pollutant, being the primary agent in acid rain. It is prepared on massive scales as a precursor to sulfuric acid.-Structure and bonding:Gaseous SO3 is a trigonal planar molecule of...

 (made by catalysis from sulfur dioxide) and sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid is a strong mineral acid with the molecular formula . Its historical name is oil of vitriol. Pure sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive, colorless, viscous liquid. The salts of sulfuric acid are called sulfates...

 are similarly highly corrosive, due to the strong acids that form on contact with water.

The burning of coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

 and/or petroleum
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 by industry and power plants generates sulfur dioxide (SO2), which reacts with atmospheric water and oxygen to produce sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid is a strong mineral acid with the molecular formula . Its historical name is oil of vitriol. Pure sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive, colorless, viscous liquid. The salts of sulfuric acid are called sulfates...

 (H2SO4) and sulfurous acid
Sulfurous acid
Sulfurous acid is the chemical compound with the formula H2SO3. There is no evidence that sulfurous acid exists in solution, but the molecule has been detected in the gas phase...

 (H2SO3). These acids are components of acid rain
Acid rain
Acid rain is a rain or any other form of precipitation that is unusually acidic, meaning that it possesses elevated levels of hydrogen ions . It can have harmful effects on plants, aquatic animals, and infrastructure. Acid rain is caused by emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen...

, which lower the pH
PH
In chemistry, pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Pure water is said to be neutral, with a pH close to 7.0 at . Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline...

 of soil
Soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

 and freshwater bodies, sometimes resulting in substantial damage to the environment
Environment (biophysical)
The biophysical environment is the combined modeling of the physical environment and the biological life forms within the environment, and includes all variables, parameters as well as conditions and modes inside the Earth's biosphere. The biophysical environment can be divided into two categories:...

 and chemical weathering of statues and structures. Fuel standards increasingly require sulfur to be extracted from fossil fuel
Fossil fuel
Fossil fuels are fuels formed by natural processes such as anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms. The age of the organisms and their resulting fossil fuels is typically millions of years, and sometimes exceeds 650 million years...

s to prevent the formation of acid rain. This extracted sulfur is then refined and represents a large portion of sulfur production. In coal fired power plants, the flue gases are sometimes purified. In more modern power plants that use synthesis gas the sulfur is extracted before the gas is burned.

Hydrogen sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide is the chemical compound with the formula . It is a colorless, very poisonous, flammable gas with the characteristic foul odor of expired eggs perceptible at concentrations as low as 0.00047 parts per million...

 is as toxic as hydrogen cyanide and kills by the same mechanism, although hydrogen sulfide is less likely to result in surprise poisonings from small inhaled amounts, due to its more disagreeable warning odor. However, although very pungent at first awareness to the human nose, hydrogen sulfide quickly deadens the sense of smell, so potential victims breathing larger and larger quantities of it may be unaware of its presence until severe symptoms occur (these can then quickly lead to death). Dissolved sulfide
Sulfide
A sulfide is an anion of sulfur in its lowest oxidation state of 2-. Sulfide is also a slightly archaic term for thioethers, a common type of organosulfur compound that are well known for their bad odors.- Properties :...

 and hydrosulfide salts are also toxic by the same mechanism.

See also


  • Sulfur cycle
    Sulfur cycle
    The sulfur cycle are the collection of processes by which sulfur moves to and from minerals and living systems. Such biogeochemical cycles are important in geology because they affect many minerals...

  • Stratospheric sulfur aerosols
    Stratospheric sulfur aerosols
    Stratospheric sulfur aerosols are sulfur-rich particles which exist in the stratosphere region of the Earth's atmosphere. The layer of the atmosphere in which they exist is known as the Junge layer, or simply the stratospheric aerosol layer. These particles consist of a mixture of sulfuric acid...

  • Disulfide bond
    Disulfide bond
    In chemistry, a disulfide bond is a covalent bond, usually derived by the coupling of two thiol groups. The linkage is also called an SS-bond or disulfide bridge. The overall connectivity is therefore R-S-S-R. The terminology is widely used in biochemistry...

  • Ultra-low sulfur diesel
    Ultra-low sulfur diesel
    Ultra-low-sulfur diesel is a term used to describe diesel fuel with substantially lowered sulfur content...

  • Rosemary Waring
    Rosemary Waring
    Rosemary Waring, a reader in human toxicology at the School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, was the first researcher to produce scientific evidence suggestive of abnormal sulfur metabolism affecting people with autism spectrum disorders...


External links