Sulfur (S)

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Sulfur 16S32.066

Known to ancient civilizations.

[Sanskrit, sulvere = sulfur; Latin sulphurium]

French: soufre
German: Schwefel
Italian: solfo
Spanish: azufre

Description: There are several forms of sulfur, of which the yellow orthorombic (S8) is the most common. Sulfur is stable to air and water, but burns if heated. It is attacked by oxidising acids. It is a key industrial chemical and is the starting point of sulfuric acid.


Further Materials properties


Crystal structure:

(cell dimensions/pm), space group, 
α-S8 orthorombic (a=1046.46, b=1286.60, c=2448.60), Fddd
β-S8 monoclinic (a=1102, b=1096, c=1090, β=96.7°), P21/s
γ-S8 monoclinic (a=857, b=1305, c=823, β=112° 54'), P2/c
ε-S8 rhombohedral (a=646, α=115° 18'), R-3

In addition to the above ring forms there are also S7, S9-12, S18 and S20 rings.
Plastic sulfur is long chains of Sn also known in several forms χ, ψ, ϕ, μ and ω.
T (α -> β) = 366.7 K

X-ray diffractions mass absorption coefficients: CuKa 89.1 (µ/r) / cm2g-1
MoKa 9.55 (µ/r) / cm2g-1
Neutron scattering length: 0.2847 b/10-12 cm
Thermal neutron capture cross-section: 0.53 sa / barns
Density: 2070 (α), 1957 (β) kg/m-3 [293 K]; 1819 [liquid at 393 K]
Melting point: 112.85 (α)°C; 119.05 (β)°C; 106.85 (γ)°C / 386.0 (α)°K; 392.2 (β)°K; 380.0 (γ)°K
Boiling point: 444.674°C / 717.824°K
Molar volume: 15.49 cm3
Thermal conductivity: 0.269 (α) [300 K] W m-1K-1
Coefficient of linear thermal expansion: 74.33 x 10-6 K-1
Electrical resistivity: 2 x 1015 [293 K] Ωm
Mass magnetic susceptibility: -6.09 x 10-9(α); -6.09 x 10-9(β) kg-1m3
Radi: S6+ 29S4+ 37; S2- 184; atomic 104; covalent 104: van der Waals 185
Electronegativity: 2.58 (Pauling); 2.44 (Allred); 6.22 eV (absolute)
Effective nuclear charge: 5.45 (Slater); 5.48 (Clementi); 6.04 (Froese-Fischer)
Number of Isotopes (incl. nuclear isomers): 11
Isotope mass range: 29 -> 39



Biological data


Biological role: Essential to all living things; part of the amino acids methionine and cysteine.
Toxicity Elemental sulfur is not very toxic, but simple derivatives (SO2, H2S, etc.) are.
Toxic intake: n.a.
Lethal intake: for rabbits , as little as 175 mg Kg-1 has proved fatal.
Hazards: Elemental sulfur appears to be relatively harmless unless ingested; ignited it emits highly toxic fumes of SO2. Sulfur dust is a human eye irritant.
Level in humans
Blood: 1800 mg dm-3
Bone: 500 - 2400 ppm
Liver: 7000 - 12 000 ppm
Muscle: 5000 - 11 000 ppm
Daily dietary intake: 850 - 930 mg 
Total mass of element in average
[70 kg] person:
140 g


Geological data


Minerals:Native sulfur occurs naturally as deposits accociated with oil-bearing strata, as in Texas and Louisiana in the USA, and with gypsum (CaSO4, 2H2O) deposits in Sicily and Italy. Many sulfide and sulfate minerals are known. For sulfides consult antimony (stibnite), lead (galea), mercury (cinnabar), zinc (spharelite), etc. For sulfates see barium (barite), calcium (anhydrite, gypsum), magnesium (epsomite, kieserite), strontium (celestite), etc. The table below shows only those which are used as a source of sulfur.
MineralFormulaDensityHardnessCrystal apperance
Marcasite  FeS2 4.887  6 - 6.5  orth., met. pale yellow
Native sulfur  S8 2.07 1.5 - 2.5 orth., yellow pyramidal
Pyrite  FeS2 5.018  6 - 6.5 cub., met. dark yellow

Chief ores: native sulfur, pyrite; a lot of sulfur is recovered from the H2S of natural gas.
World production: 54 x 106 tonnes/year
Producing areas: USA (native sulfur), Spain.
Reserves: 2.5 x 109 tonnes
Specimen: available as powder and flake. Safe!


Sun: 1.6 x 107(relative to H = 1 x 1012)
Earth's crust: 260 ppm
Seawater 870 ppm
Residence time: 8 x 10years
Classification: accumulating
Oxidation state: VI

  Source: Emsley, J. (1998) The Elements (3rd Edition)

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Overview of elements with access to our shop

1 18
2 13 14 15 16 17
Li Be B C
Na Mg 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Al Si P S
K Ca Sc Ti V Cr Mn Fe Co Ni Cu Zn Ga Ge As Se
Rb Sr Y Zr Nb Mo
Ru Rh Pd Ag Cd In Sn Sb Te I
Cs Ba La Hf Ta W Re Os Ir Pt Au Hg Tl Pb Bi
Ce Pr Nd
Sm Eu Gd Tb Dy Ho Er Tm Yb Lu

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