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Elements for Kids

Sulfur

The element sulfur

  • Symbol: S
  • Atomic Number: 16
  • Atomic Weight: 32.06
  • Classification: Nonmetal
  • Phase at Room Temperature: Solid
  • Density: (alpha) 2.07 grams per cm cubed
  • Melting Point: 115.21°C, 239.38°F
  • Boiling Point: 444.6°C, 832.3°F
  • Discovered by: Known about since ancient times


Sulfur is the second element in the sixteenth column of the periodic table. It is classified as a nonmetal. Sulfur atoms have 16 electrons and 16 protons with 6 valence electrons in the outer shell. Sulfur is the tenth most abundant element in the universe.

Sulfur can take the form of over 30 different allotropes (crystal structures). This is the most allotropes of any element.

Characteristics and Properties

Under standard conditions sulfur is a pale yellow solid. It is soft and odorless. The most common allotrope of sulfur is called octasulfur.

Sulfur does not dissolve in water. It also works as a good electrical insulator.

When burned, sulfur emits a blue flame and melts into a molten red liquid. It also combines with oxygen to form a toxic gas called sulfur dioxide (SO2).

Sulfur forms many different compounds including the gas hydrogen sulfide which is famous for having the strong odor of rotten eggs. Hydrogen sulfide is dangerous as it is flammable, explosive, and highly poisonous.

Where is sulfur found on Earth?

Elemental sulfur can be found in a number of areas on Earth including volcanic emissions, hot springs, salt domes, and hydrothermal vents.

Sulfur is also found in a number of naturally occurring compounds called sulfides and sulfates. Some examples are lead sulfide, pyrite, cinnabar, zinc sulfide, gypsum, and barite.

Sulfur can be mined from underground deposits. It can also be recovered as a byproduct from various industrial processes including the refining of petroleum.

How is sulfur used today?

Sulfur and its compounds have a number of industrial applications. The majority of sulfur is used to make the chemical sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid is the top chemical used by the world's industry. It is used to make car batteries, fertilizer, refine oil, process water, and to extract minerals.

Other applications for sulfur based chemicals include the vulcanization of rubber, bleaching paper, and making products such as cement, detergents, pesticides. and gunpowder.

Sulfur also plays an important role in supporting life on Earth. It is the eighth most abundant element in the human body. Sulfur is part of the proteins and enzymes that make up our bodies. It is important in forming fats and strong bones.

How was it discovered?

Sulfur has been known about since ancient times. Ancient cultures in India, China, and Greece all knew about sulfur. It is even referred to in the Bible as "brimstone." Sometimes it is spelled "sulphur."

It was French chemist Antoine Lavoisier who, in 1777, proved that sulfur was one of the elements and not a compound.

Where did sulfur get its name?

Sulfur gets its name from the Latin word "sulphur" which is formed from a Latin root meaning "to burn."

Isotopes

There are four stable isotopes of sulfur including sulfur-32, 33, 34, and 36. The majority of naturally occurring sulfur is sulfur-32.

Interesting Facts about Sulfur


More on the Elements and the Periodic Table

Elements
Periodic Table

Alkali Metals
Lithium
Sodium
Potassium

Alkaline Earth Metals
Beryllium
Magnesium
Calcium
Radium

Transition Metals
Scandium
Titanium
Vanadium
Chromium
Manganese
Iron
Cobalt
Nickel
Copper
Zinc
Silver
Platinum
Gold
Mercury
Post-transition Metals
Aluminum
Gallium
Tin
Lead

Metalloids
Boron
Silicon
Germanium
Arsenic

Nonmetals
Hydrogen
Carbon
Nitrogen
Oxygen
Phosphorus
Sulfur
Halogens
Fluorine
Chlorine
Iodine

Noble Gases
Helium
Neon
Argon

Lanthanides and Actinides
Uranium
Plutonium

More Chemistry Subjects

Matter
Atom
Molecules
Isotopes
Solids, Liquids, Gases
Melting and Boiling
Chemical Bonding
Chemical Reactions
Radioactivity and Radiation
Mixtures and Compounds
Naming Compounds
Mixtures
Separating Mixtures
Solutions
Acids and Bases
Crystals
Metals
Salts and Soaps
Water
Other
Glossary and Terms
Chemistry Lab Equipment
Organic Chemistry
Famous Chemists


Science >> Chemistry for Kids >> Periodic Table





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