Our January Meeting Sulfur the Good,Bad, and the Ugly

 A Report on our January Meeting Sulfur:  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly     by Liz Kennedy , Who knew element #16 Sulfur could be so interesting and versatile.  […]

 A Report on our January Meeting Sulfur:  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly     by Liz Kennedy ,

Who knew element #16 Sulfur could be so interesting and versatile.  Sulfur (a.k.a. Brimstone) is an element missing

two electrons in its outer shell. Sulfur’s chemistry comes from trying to find two electrons so all its electrons will be paired. Sulfur will form S8 rings in elemental form and most commonly forms a rhombic crystal structure. Rosickyite is the least common less stable monoclinic crystal structure of sulfur. If sulfur is melted and poured into water, a brownish ribbon of amorphous sulfur will form. It is not stable and overtime will organize itself into the characteristic yellow S8 rings.

Sulfur is found all over the world. Native sulfur is found around volcanoes. In Java sulfur is collected from volcanic cones and carved. These sculptures can be purchased by those visiting the area. Jupiter’s moon Io has sulfur volcanoes and is the most volcanically active object in the solar system.

On earth many sulfide bearing ores are found. Pyrite FeS2, Galena PbS, Cinnabar HgS, Molybdenite MoS2, Anglesite PbSO4 are a few examples. Sulfur is responsible for the blue colour of Lapis Lazuli.

Biologically sulfur is an important element. It is in fertilizer as plants require it too. It is found in amino acids, for example, those that form keratin for hair and fingernails. It is in the proteins found in hemoglobin. Antibodies to fight infection contain sulfur linkages everywhere. Cartilage, bile thiamine and biotin all contain sulfur. The black rings that can form on hard boiled eggs is pyrite.  Sulphur compounds give onions, garlic and skunks their characteristic smell. Sulfa drugs are antibiotics. Sulfur powder is used and as antifungals in gardening and farming.

Industrially sulfur is an important compound. It is used to make gunpowder, fireworks, drywall, and detergent as well in the vulcanization of rubber. Vulcanization of rubber was an accidental discovery by Goodyear. Sulfur atoms crosslink the rubber molecules which makes them less sticky and stretchy. It is also used in sulfuric acid production. Sulphuric acid is the starting point for many industrial processes.

Sulfur also has a dark side. Sulfur causes silver to tarnish (Ag2S). Malathion is a pesticide which is not good for the environment. Mustard gas contains sulfur and volcanoes spew hydrogen sulfide into the atmosphere. Sulfur dioxide emissions are caused by people. These are not great environmentally. Acid rain gets into the water damaging marble statues and friezes as well as killing aquatic life and vegetation.

Thank you, David Bellamy for enlightening us, on element #16, Sulfur.

Captions:  A sulfur specimen from David’s collection,  pairing of sulfur electrons, collecting sulfur in Java. from Davids presentation; photos by Chris Robart