Extraction, uses of Sulfur, and more to know.

Sulfur is a nonmetallic yellow element. It finds its place at serial no 16 of the periodic table. Sulfur can exist in a solid state at ordinary temperatures. Extractions and uses of sulfur in modern-day life made sulfur important.

Sulfur was known to our ancestors for thousands of years back. In Bible, it was referred to as “brimstone” which means “burn stone” or the stone which can burn. Probably it derives its name from the Arabic word “sufra” which means yellow. In Sanskrit, the language sulfur is called “shulbari” which means ari (enemy) of shulba( copper) as Sulfur destroys the metallic properties of copper.

Sulfur image
Image of element sulfur/credit/Byju’s

Extraction of Sulfur:

Before discussing the uses of sulfur let us discuss the extraction of the element. Sulfur deposits in large quantities are found beneath the earth in layers. Most of the deposits are there in the earth’s core than its crust. Further sulfur is naturally found near hot springs and volcanoes. Sulfur is also available in nature as Hydrogen Sulphide(H2S) gas, Calcium Sulphate(CaSO4), Sulfides (S2), etc.

Sulfur is extracted or mined by a process called the Frasch process. The method was developed by Herman Frasch, a chemist and mining engineer in 1891. By this method, three coaxial pipes of different diameters are introduced into the bed of the sulfur deposit. Superheated water at 170 Degrees Celsius is pumped down through the outermost pipe.

Further hot compressed air is injected through the innermost pipe. The sulfur is melted by hot water and finds its flow through the middle pipe to the surface by the pressure inserted by hot compressed air. At the receiving end, it is collected by big wooden vats. The sulfur obtained by the procedures is 99.5% pure.

Image credit/scienceeasylearning-wordpress

Uses of sulfur:

Uses of sulfur in modern-day life are plenty. Its uses are visible in industries, agriculture, medicines, health, etc. as follows;

Preparation of Sulfuric Acid:

Most of the uses of sulfur are made for the preparation of Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) used for the manufacture of a chemical known as Sulfuric Acid(H2SO4). It is considered one of the largest industrial chemicals produced in lead acid batteries for automobile industries.

Oil refining:

Sulfur is a major by-product of petroleum sectors. The crude oil contains sulfur in the range of1-4wt%. To adhere to the strict sulfur contain limit during the refining process most of the sulfur is removed.

Vulcanization of rubber:

Uses of sulfur are involved in the vulcanization of rubber. We found natural rubber in soft and sticky states. To make the rubber hard, nonsticky, and more elastic it is heated with sulfur. The process involved for the purpose is called vulcanization.

Uses of sulfur/vulcanization of rubber
Image credit/ YouTube

Drugs and pesticides etc preparation:

Sulfur is used in the preparation of a wide range of products including drugs, pesticides, insecticides, etc. Antibiotics like Sulfonamide antibiotics include sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim, erythromycin-sulfisoxazole, etc. and some diabetes medicines like glyburide contain sulfur. Penicillin is a natural-based antibiotic for the treatment of bacterial infections.

Manufacture of chemical fertilizers:

For the manufacturing of some fertilizers uses of sulfur are made. A fertilizer like sulfur bentonite is a combination of sulfur and bentonite clay. It is very useful for the correction of alkaline contents in soil.

Sulfur is one of the 17 essential nutrients of plants used to produce enzymes, vitamins, protein( nitrogen, potassium), and chlorophyll in plants.

Further fertilizers like sulfate-sulfur have sulfur in combination with nitrogen or potassium. For plant growth manure is a rich source of sulfur. Most livestock manure contains a range of 0.25% to 0.30% sulfur. However, poultry manure has more sulfur up to 0.50%.

Sulfur in hair dye:

In hair dye uses of sulfur are prevalent. A specified quantity of sulfur in the dye is necessary for singing hair as loss of sulfur causes the hardness of hair and loss of elasticity. It is a known fact that human hair is made from keratin, a protein that is rich in sulfur.

Sulfur in Gunpowder, matchbox, and fireworks:

For the preparation of gunpowder uses of sulfur is needed. Here sulfur act as a stabilizer for the purpose. Gunpowder contains 75% saltpeter/niter(an oxidizer), 15% charcoal(fuel), and the rest sulfur(stabilizer). The sulfur is used to make the gunpowder burn quickly. Its applications are also found in match sticks and fireworks or firecrackers.

Gunpowder/Image credit/

Bleaching paper:

Sulfur is used as an important ingredient for processing paper. Sulfur dioxide is used to manufacture Hydrosulfites (H2S)to remove excess chlorine from the bleaching process of the wood pulp and paper.

Manufacture of concrete:

In civil construction, pollution remains an important issue. Sulfur-based concrete is one of the best alternatives for making conventional concrete. The uses of Sulfur act as a partial alternate binder to ordinary portland cement to produce sulfur-based concrete. Such concrete gains early strength and has low shrinkage and low thermal conductivity. Further, it acts as an excellent adhesive and high durability resistant.

Detergent power:

In detergents uses of sulfur is made as Sodium Sulphate. Sodium Sulphate effectively lowers the concentrated dissolved oxygen during washing, resulting in the protection of washing machines from rusting.

Interesting facts about sulfur:

  • Sulfur is found in different forms known as allotropes of sulfur. The most important allotropes forms are rhombic sulfur, monoclinic sulfur, and plastic sulfur.
  • The common form of sulfate is called rhombic sulfur and is made up of eight-sided yellow crystals. It changes into monoclinic sulfur when heated more than 950 Degrees Celsius.
  • The molten sulfur when poured into cold water it transforms into plastic sulfur.
  • The flower of sulfur is another allotrope, a yellow powder is prepared by quick cooling of sulfur vapor.
  • Sulfur is a reactive element and it burns in the air forming a blue flame to form Sulfur Dioxide(SO2) It is a greenhouse gas and pollutes the air. Another oxide of sulfur is Sulfur Trioxide (SO3)when dissolved in water forms sulphuric acid.
  • Sulfur itself is not soluble in water rather it dissolves in Carbon Disulfide(CS2).
  • Its melting point is 112.8 Degrees Celsius and boils at 444.6 Degrees Celsius.
  • Sulfur is consumed naturally in food and is essential for the body and it is safe when used tropically.
  • Sulfur plays an important role in the body for glutathione synthesis, that act as a protein antioxidant to protect cells from damage and decay.
  • Most health benefits of onion and garlic come from the sulfur compound of the vegetable.
  • The principal dietary sources of sulfur include cruciferous vegetables, animal proteins, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Bottom line:

Sulfur is a very significant nonmetallic element. Uses of sulfur in industries, agriculture, and daily life of humans are unavoidable. Many of us are not aware of the presence of sulfur in our diets and its value for the enrichment of our health. It is one of the 17 essential nutrients of plants for growth. In the manufacture of antibiotics, hair dye, certain fertilizers, pesticides, Sulfuric Acid, vulcanization of paper, black gunpowder, etc. role of sulfur is essential. We may not imagine a scenario without sulfur at this point of time.

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  • December 19, 2022 at 12:24 am
    Dillip kumar Pramanik

    This is absolutely a new topic for me. Explained very clearly.. 👌👌

  • December 21, 2022 at 7:40 am

    Sulphur is a non metal that has been used by mankind since ages. It’s has it’s application to almost all the possible fields available. So many interesting facts were revealed in this article. Thank you for sharing your knowledge to others through your writing. Very nice article.✨✨✨✨💫💫💫💫


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