Sulphur - the element

Sulphur (or sulfur) occurs in various forms in nature; in its native or elemental state it is a yellow, crystalline solid.  It is found in the form of mineral sulphides and sulphates, such as galena (lead sulphide) and cinnabar (a sulphide of mercury). In the atmosphere, it is found as sulphur dioxide.  Sulphur dioxide is produced by the burning of various fossil fuels; the levels of sulphur dioxide in the atmosphere were very high at one stage before the introduction of various 'Clean Air' Acts and other measures to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions from power stations.  It contributed significantly to 'acid rain', which affected many parts of Europe. Different lichens species are sometimes used as indices of sulphur dioxide pollution.

Sulphur is found in all living organisms, where it forms part of the amino acids cysteine and methionine; and also, proteins.  This sulphur is often in the form of thiol (-SH) groups; these are involved in the formation of strong, covalent bonds, known as 'disulphide bridges'.  Proteins often consist of two or more polypeptide chains, and these chains are may be held together by such disulphide bridges.  Proteins like keratin (found in hair, feathers, nails and claws) are rich in sulphur.  Thiol groups form part of other important biological molecules, such as acetyl coenzyme A, which is central to energy generation in cells.  Thiols are also found in the active centres of certain enzymes.  An active centre is the region at which an enzyme binds with its substrate(s) - the molecules on which it acts.

Some bacteria can make use of sulphur compounds producing hydrogen sulphide or 'rotten eggs' gas .  This gas may be produced by the breakdown of organic matter in swamps or sewers.  Hydrogen sulphide has a distinctive smell and is toxic.  After being exposed to the gas for a while, the smell is no longer noticed - the olfactory nerve is over-whelmed; so someone exposed to the gas may succumb to its effects (it affects the process of cellular respiration).  Some have suggested that volcanic eruptions some 250 million years ago triggered a series of events that lead to high levels of hydrogen sulphide in the oceans and air, which in turn resulted in the Permian Extinction.

Comments on this article

sib1234 13 September, 2011

what language does the word come from

jcc 22 September, 2011

thanx m8 ive done my project!

amye 6 October, 2011

why does sylfwr have to be yellow it could at least be a different colour ??

salman 4 December, 2011

is it metal or a non-metal

finn 18 January, 2012

how dense is it ie. density and whats it's strength, and hardness.

dawn jagger 21 April, 2012

does our body contain sulphur

Mee 27 April, 2012

What's its atomic number?

Wow wee 1 May, 2012

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kamil 23 May, 2012

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A Person 5 September, 2012

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