Post by firstname.lastname@example.org
Are there any ways which don't involve essentially *finding* some
sulfur lying around? I meant for the characters to *extract* the sulfur
from substances in their environment.
Hmm, well that's even more obtuse. I like! <g>
It sounds a bit involved and technical for a read though, unless that's
where you're going with it.
First of all, obviously you need to find a source of sulfur atoms
themselves. Sulfates are a good if low-yield route, examples are gypsum
(calcium sulfate), epsom salts (magnesium), glauber's salt (sodium) and so
on. Most are soluble; calcium, strontium (celestite), barium (barite) and
lead (anglesite) aren't.
Something like gypsum (CaSO4.2H2O) contains all of 18.6% sulfur.
FYI, sulfates tend to be soluble (or formed from soluble solutions), so they
are most often found around evaporite deposits (dry lake beds etc.) and
weathered sulfide deposits (lead, zinc, iron and copper most often form
sulfide minerals). Speaking of which, sulfides may also be a source,
skipping the following step to use.
Once you get a source of the material, you need to isolate it. SO4-- is an
oxidized ion, so a reducing agent like carbon can be used, but the metal
remains behind (for example, CaSO4 + 2C => CaS + 2CO2).
You can seperate it by dissolving in an acid, where for example CaS + 2HCl
=> CaCl2 + H2S happens. H2S is hydrosulfuric acid when dissolved in water,
but it isn't very soluble (in fact acid isn't really necessary, CaS + 2H2O =
Ca(OH)2 + H2S naturally occurs, otherwise known as hydrolysis), it just
speeds it up.
So now you have this immensely poisonous, immensely STINKY cloud of gas, but
it's still not sulfur. You can trap and run it through a sealed furnace
with a certain amount of air and a catalyst, where the hydrogen is oxidized
in preference to the sulfur: 2H2S + O2 = 2H2O + 2S, then condense the sulfur
vapor (this all happens above red heat). That's how industry recovers
sulfur from cleaning "sour" petroleum, but it doesn't strike me as very
useful in reality or to characters in a novel.
You may be able to carry out the same process with an oxidizer and acid such
as H2O2 + HCl or H2SO4, but darned if H2O2 isn't just as hard to make.
Note that sulfur will corrode most any metals, you can't just use a forged
iron or copper apparatus to do this.
Post by email@example.com
My question is: What ways could my characters acquire sulfur without
the massive infrastructure of a civilization.
Hm. Collecting it from a volcano really is probably the best route,
unfortunately if you're looking for something complicated.
"California is the breakfast state: fruits, nuts and flakes."