Sulfur is abundant, multivalent, and nonmetallic. Under normal conditions, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with a chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow crystalline solid at room temperature. Chemically, sulfur reacts with all elements except for gold, platinum, iridium, tellurium, and the noble gases.
The greatest commercial use of the element is the production of sulfuric acid for sulfate and phosphate fertilizers, and other chemical processes.
Production of sulphur carried out in three basic ways. It can be mined through the use of wells drilled to sulphur deposits and worked with the “Frasch” method. It can be extracted from the oil or gas stream at a processing plant. And it can be scraped from the surface of the earth or dug out of open pits.
Protons and Neutrons in Sulfur
Sulfur is a chemical element with atomic number 16 which means there are 16 protons in its nucleus. Total number of protons in the nucleus is called the atomic number of the atom and is given the symbol Z. The total electrical charge of the nucleus is therefore +Ze, where e (elementary charge) equals to 1,602 x 10-19 coulombs.
The total number of neutrons in the nucleus of an atom is called the neutron number of the atom and is given the symbol N. Neutron number plus atomic number equals atomic mass number: N+Z=A. The difference between the neutron number and the atomic number is known as the neutron excess: D = N – Z = A – 2Z.
For stable elements, there is usually a variety of stable isotopes. Isotopes are nuclides that have the same atomic number and are therefore the same element, but differ in the number of neutrons. Mass numbers of typical isotopes of Sulfur are 23; 33; 34; 36.
Main Isotopes of Sulfur
Sulfur has 23 known isotopes, four of which are stable: 32S (94.99%±0.26%), 33S (0.75%±0.02%), 34S (4.25%±0.24%), and 36S (0.01%±0.01%).
Sulfur-32 is composed of 16 protons, 16 neutrons, and 16 electrons.
Sulfur-33 is composed of 16 protons, 17 neutrons, and 16 electrons.
Sulfur-34 is composed of 16 protons, 18 neutrons, and 16 electrons.
Sulfur-36 is composed of 16 protons, 20 neutrons, and 16 electrons.
Electrons and Electron Configuration
The number of electrons in an electrically-neutral atom is the same as the number of protons in the nucleus. Therefore, the number of electrons in neutral atom of Sulfur is 16. Each electron is influenced by the electric fields produced by the positive nuclear charge and the other (Z – 1) negative electrons in the atom.
Since the number of electrons and their arrangement are responsible for the chemical behavior of atoms, the atomic number identifies the various chemical elements. The configuration of these electrons follows from the principles of quantum mechanics. The number of electrons in each element’s electron shells, particularly the outermost valence shell, is the primary factor in determining its chemical bonding behavior. In the periodic table, the elements are listed in order of increasing atomic number Z.
Electron configuration of Sulfur is [Ne] 3s2 3p4.
Possible oxidation states are +4,6/-2.
Common oxidation states of sulfur range from −2 to +6. Sulfur reacts with nearly all other elements with the exception of the noble gases, even with the notoriously unreactive metal iridium (yielding iridium disulfide). Some of those reactions need elevated temperatures. It is one of the most reactive elements.
Most Common Compound of Sulfur
Elemental sulfur is used mainly as a precursor to other chemicals. Approximately 85% is converted to sulfuric acid (H2SO4):
- 2 S + 3 O2 + 2 H2O → 2 H2SO4
In 2010, the United States produced more sulfuric acid than any other inorganic industrial chemical.
|Number of protons||16|
|Number of neutrons (typical isotopes)||23; 33; 34; 36|
|Number of electrons||16|
|Electron configuration||[Ne] 3s2 3p4|
Properties of other elements