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Sulfur (S)

QUICK REFERENCE

  • Symbol: S
  • Atomic Number: 16
  • Atomic Weight: 32.06
  • Element Classification: Non-metal
  • Discovered By: Known to the ancients
  • Name Origin: Latin: ‘sulphur’
  • Density(g/cc): 2.067 (alpha form, at 20°C)
  • Melting Point: 115.21°C (rhombic), 119.0°C (monoclinic)
  • Boiling Point: 444.6°C
  • Appearance: Bright yellow crystals or powder
  • Atomic Radius(pm): 88

Discovery

Sulfur is one of the few elements known since ancient times, mentioned in the Bible and by early Greek and Chinese civilizations. Its discovery predates recorded history, so no single person is credited with its discovery. The name “sulfur” comes from the Latin ‘sulphur’, referring to its fiery nature and association with volcanic activity and hot springs.

Relation to Other Elements

Sulfur is a non-metallic element in group 16 of the periodic table, also known as the chalcogen group. It is chemically reactive and forms compounds with almost all other elements, except for gold, platinum, iridium, tellurium, and the noble gases. Sulfur’s most common oxidation states are -2, +4, and +6. It is known for its distinctive bright yellow color in its elemental form and for its “rotten egg” smell when combined with hydrogen to form hydrogen sulfide (H₂S).

Natural Occurrence

Sulfur is found in its native form on Earth, especially in volcanic regions and hot springs. It also occurs in various minerals, including pyrite (FeS₂), galena (PbS), and gypsum (CaSO₄·2H₂O). Sulfur is a component of many amino acids and vitamins, making it essential for life. It circulates through the biosphere, lithosphere, and atmosphere in the global sulfur cycle.

Uses

Sulfur has a wide range of applications:

  • Fertilizers: Sulfur is a key ingredient in many fertilizers, contributing to plant growth and soil health.
  • Chemicals: Sulfuric acid (H₂SO₄) is one of the most important chemicals made from sulfur, used in batteries, in ore processing, and as an industrial solvent and reactant.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Sulfur compounds are used in antibiotics and other medications.
  • Pesticides: Many sulfur-containing compounds are used as insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides.
  • Vulcanization: Sulfur is used to vulcanize rubber, making it more durable and elastic.
  • Manufacturing: It is used in the production of black gunpowder, matches, and fireworks.
  • Cosmetics: Sulfur is an ingredient in some skincare products for its antimicrobial properties and its ability to treat acne and seborrheic dermatitis.

Sulfur’s discovery and utilization have had a significant impact on agriculture, industry, and medicine, demonstrating its importance across various aspects of human life and the environment. Its role in the natural world, especially in biological systems, further underscores its essential nature.

Silicon (Si)

Chlorine (Cl)