Periodic Table


Atomic number: 16
Atomic weight: 32.066
Symbol: S
Group number: 16
Electronic configuration: [Ne].3s2.3p4


The spelling of sulphur is "sulfur" in the USA and now that IUPAC has decided it has jurisdiction over the English language (as distinct from American English) as well as nomenclature, so we in the UK are expected to use the f word.

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.

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 deposit.

Sulphur is a pale yellow, odourless, brittle solid, which is insoluble in water but soluble in carbon disulphide. Sulphur is essential to life. It is a minor constituent of fats, body fluids, and skeletal minerals.

Carbon disulphide, hydrogen sulphide, and sulphur dioxide should be handled extremely carefully. Hydrogen sulphide in very small concentrations can be metabolized, but in higher concentrations it can cause death quickly by respiratory paralysis. It is insidious in that it quickly deadens the sense of smell. Sulphur dioxide is a dangerous component in atmospheric air pollution and is one of the factors responsible for acid rain.

General information

Discoveror: Known since ancient times
Date discovered:
Discovered at: not known
Meaning of name: From the Sanskrit word "sulvere" meaning "sulphur"; also from the Latin word "sulphurium" meaning "sulphur"

Physical data

Standard state: solid at 298 K
Colour: lemon yellow
Density of solid at ambient temperature/kg m-3: 1960
Molar volume/cm3: 15.53

Radii /pm

Atomic: 88
Covalent (single bond):
Pauling radius for the ion [S]-: 219

Valence shell orbital radius maxima (Rmax)
orbital s p d f
radius75.185.5no datano data


Both values are quoted on the Pauling scale.

Pauling: 2.58
Allred Rochow: 2.44

Crystal Structure

structure: orthorhombic

The following CrystalMaker image represents the solid state structure. For most elements, the most stable allotrope is illustrated. Try WebElements version 2 for interactive virtual reality and CHIME images.


Temperatures (/K)

melting point: 388.36
boiling point: 717.87

Enthalpies /kJ mol-1

fusion: 1.73
vaporization: 45

single bond enthalpies:
S-F S-Cl S-Br S-I S-S
284 255 217 no data 425.28

Ionization enthalpies /kJ mol-1

Number Enthalpy


This section gives some data for naturally occurring isotopes.
Nominal mass Accurate mass % natural abundance
32S31.97207070 (25)95.02 (9)
33S32.97145843 (23)0.75 (1)
34S33.96786665 (22)4.21 (8)
36S35.96708062 (27)0.02 (1)

Further Information

Copyright 1997 Mark Winter
Department of Chemistry at the University of Sheffield, Sheffield S3 7HF, England.

The current version of this document is at http://www.shef.ac.uk/~chem/web-elements-I/S.html