If the early Earth environment was of a high enough temperature to form polymeric sulfur, how did the sulfur become sulfur flowers?  Or, more specifically, how does one convert sulfur polymer into...

If the early Earth environment was of a high enough temperature to form polymeric sulfur, how did the sulfur become sulfur flowers?  Or, more specifically, how does one convert sulfur polymer into sulfur flowers?

Asked on by mwmovr40

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ncchemist | eNotes Employee

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Sulfur is a pretty common and highly versatile chemical element.  It can be found in pure elemental form, or it can be found in sulfide compounds or in oxidized form in sulfate and sulfite salts.  Sulfur can be both oxidized and reduced, and forms a variety of different types of compounds, both organic and inorganic.

Pure sulfur is found in nature in many different allotropes, or elemental forms.  The most common allotrope of pure sulfur in nature is S8, or a cyclic ring of 8 sulfur atoms.  Other allotropes have ring sizes between 6 and 18 atoms in length. 

Sulfur has been used in traditional medicine for centuries.  People utilize it for a wide variety of medicinal purposes, from skin disease topicals to regenerating hair growth.  Two common forms of medicinal sulfur are called flowers of sulfur and flour sulfur.  Flowers of sulfur are made from naturally occurring sulfur by heating a solid sample of sulfur until it becomes a gas.  If the gas is then quickly cooled and condensed directly from the gaseous state to a solid state without passing through an intermediate liquid state, then the result is flowers of sulfur.  It is composed of fine, crystalline particles. If the gaseous sulfur is more slowly condensed, at passes through an intermediate molten liquid state first which then cools into hard formed solid blocks.  This solid can then be mechanically ground down into a fine powder, resulting in flour sulfur.

I don't know if flowers of sulfur were naturally formed in the early Earth environment, but that is how it is man-made.

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mwmovr40 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Great.  That is exactly what I needed to know.  I have some independent study students who are working on simply polymer experiments.  The discussion we had lead to the question.  I had not not thought of the reverse sublimation condensation possibility.  It seems plausible and is better than some of the other processes we came up with.

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