Sulphur is the chemical element with atomic number. It is an abundant, multivalent non-metal. Under normal conditions, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow crystalline solid when at room temperature. Chemically, sulfur can react as either an oxidant or reducing agent. It oxidizes most metals and several nonmetals, including carbon, which leads to its negative charge in most organometallic compounds, but it reduces several strong oxidants, such as oxygen and fluorine. It is also the lightest element to easily produce stable exceptions to the octet rule.
In nature, sulfur can be found as the pure element and as sulfide and sulfate minerals. Elemental sulfur crystals are commonly sought after by mineral collectors for their brightly colored polyhedron shapes. Sulphur was considered important enough to receive its own alchemical symbol. It was needed to make the best quality of black gunpowder, and the bright yellow powder was hypothesized by alchemists to contain some of the properties of gold, which they sought to synthesize from it.
Elemental sulfur was once extracted from salt domes where it sometimes occurs in nearly pure form, but this method has been obsolete since the late 20th century. Today, almost all elemental sulfur is produced as a byproduct of removing sulfur-containing contaminants from natural gas and petroleum. The element's commercial uses are primarily in fertilizers, because of the relatively high requirement of plants for it, and in the manufacture of sulfuric acid, a primary industrial chemical. Other well-known uses for the element are in matches, insecticides and fungicides. Many sulfur compounds are odiferous, and the smell of odorized natural gas, skunk scent, grapefruit, and garlic is due to sulfur compounds. Hydrogen sulfide produced by living organisms imparts the characteristic odor to rotting eggs and other biological processes.
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