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Jupiter's moon Io owes its colours to various forms of sulphur. A
dark area near the crater Aristarchus on the moon may be a sulphur
Sulphur was used by pagan priests 2,000 years before the birth of
Christ. The Romans used sulphur or fumes from its combustion as an
insecticide and to purify a sick room and cleanse its air of evil
(Cunningham 1935). The same uses were reported by Homer in the Odyssey
in 1000 B.C. Armed with the knowledge of gunpowder, Europeans demanded
increasing quantities of sulphur, beginning in the 12th century.
The Present Scenario
Sulphur is found in meteorites, volcanoes, hot springs, and as
galena, gypsum, Epsom salts, and barite. It is recovered commercially
from "salt domes" along the Gulf Coast of the USA.
which is given a bad reputation because of its odor, can make a very
beautiful mineral specimen, and fine quality examples are much sought
after. The unmistakable deep yellow color is not matched by any other
mineral and the nicely shaped crystal forms of sulfur add to its
attractiveness. As for the odor, this occurs when water mixes with the
sulfur and a small amount of hydrogen sulfide (H2
S) gas is
produced. Although only small amounts of H2
S form from
just moisture in the air, it is a powerful odor producer and is the
dominating contributor to the odor of rotten eggs. Rest assured,
though, that most specimens of sulfur, when kept dry, do not emit a
strong odor and this is not difficult for collectors of fine sulfur
specimens to ensure.
Although sulphur is in the same group in the periodic table as
oxygen, there are more differences in the chemical characteristics of
these elements than there are similarities. Thus, while oxygen always
displays a valency of two, sulphur displays valences of four (in
sulphur dioxide, SO2
), six (in thionyl chloride, socl2
and eight (in sulphur hexafluoride, SF8
In the elemental state, sulphur exists in polymeric forms.
Sulphur is an essential element for living organisms, and is present
in some amino-acids.
||Best Field Indicators
|1½ - 2½
|color, odor, heat sensitivity,
lack of good cleavage and crystal habit.
in following forms
Marcasite (white pyrite)
other sulphide and sulphate minerals
is a strong yellow color in thick crystals and duller yellow in
small crystals to pale yellow in massive or powdery forms. Can also
be reddish or greenish yellow with impurities.
is vitreous to more often resinous or earthy in massive forms.
is transparent to translucent.
System is orthorhombic; 2/m 2/m 2/m
Habits include mostly massive or powdery forms but well shaped
blocky crystals are common. Crystals can be made up of two
dipyramids, one with steeper faces than the other, prisms and/or
pinacoids in various combinations.
is very poor in two directions.
Gravity is 2.0 - 2.1 (well below average)
Characteristics: odor (see above), poor heat conductivity makes it
brittle when heated and can actually crack if held tightly in a
Field Indicators are color, odor, heat sensitivity, lack of good
cleavage and crystal habit.
In 1985, twenty-one countries (all European except Canada) signed the
"Protocol to the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air
Pollution on the Reduction of Sulphur Emissions or their Transboundary
Fluxes by at Least 30 Per Cent." It aims to reduce annual sulphur
emissions -- the main cause of acid rain -- by at least 30 per cent in
the year 1993. Since then, a new treaty is currently in the process of
negotiation. The most important issue on the negotiating table is the
inclusion of East European countries and the most effective method for
inclusion. Should Western European sponsors of the original treaty
assist its neighbors in acquiring expensive power scrubbers, provided
by Western business? The balance between domestic business interests,
Germany's $40 billion pollution-control industry, and international
environmental interests are crucial factors guiding the negotiations.
Michigan and Ohio, USA
The deposition of sulphur has decreased significantly over recent
years and is predicted to decrease further by 2010. This reflects a
71% decrease in sulphur dioxide emissions from 1987 to 2001, which led
to 74% less dry deposition and 44.5% less wet deposition. These
reductions reflect investments in flue gas desulphurisation technology
and alternative fuel sources at power stations. Reductions in
emissions of transboundary air pollutants are agreed at International
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