Discussion:
how to extract/make sulfur powder
(too old to reply)
s***@post.com
2005-06-03 18:43:38 UTC
Permalink
First, this is for a "Robinson Crusoe" slash "The Mysterious Island"
style story I am writing. If my protagonist wanted to make gunpowder, I
know how he'd get charcoal and saltpetre, but how would he be able to
get pure sulfur powder?

Any and all semi plausible ideas welcome (except, of course, "Get it
from a chemical distributor / the store / etc.") Perhaps I'll be able
to work one of them into the story.

This also relates to a questin I had about Larry Niven's "Ringworld"
series. There are no geological mineral deposits on the Ringworld, so
the Machine People have to work with what's biologically available for
power sources, like alcohol instead of gasoline. Well, in one of the
novels, they're collecting saltpetre to make gunpowder, but where'd
they get the sulfur?

Thanks for any help, and any references to useful places to find help.
PyroLeo
2005-06-03 20:28:52 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@post.com
First, this is for a "Robinson Crusoe" slash "The Mysterious Island"
style story I am writing. If my protagonist wanted to make gunpowder, I
know how he'd get charcoal and saltpetre, but how would he be able to
get pure sulfur powder?
Any and all semi plausible ideas welcome (except, of course, "Get it
from a chemical distributor / the store / etc.") Perhaps I'll be able
to work one of them into the story.
This also relates to a questin I had about Larry Niven's "Ringworld"
series. There are no geological mineral deposits on the Ringworld, so
the Machine People have to work with what's biologically available for
power sources, like alcohol instead of gasoline. Well, in one of the
novels, they're collecting saltpetre to make gunpowder, but where'd
they get the sulfur?
Thanks for any help, and any references to useful places to find help.
Is this a dormant volcanic island? Might there be lava tubes or caverns
where sulfur may have formed deposits? Seems like I saw that in a movie
once, I don't know how likely it is.

Leo
Tim Williams
2005-06-03 20:53:16 UTC
Permalink
Post by PyroLeo
Is this a dormant volcanic island? Might there be lava tubes or
caverns where sulfur may have formed deposits? Seems like I saw
that in a movie once, I don't know how likely it is.
Yeah, sulfur occurs naturally in two places: sublimate deposits around
volcanic fumaroles (often beautiful yellow crystals or plain crusts) and
deep underground deposits associated with salt domes, presumably action of
ancient bacteria on sulfurous water. This is mined with a combination of
pressurized boiling water (i.e., above 100°C) and compressed air which
brings up a froth to the surface.

Tim

--
"California is the breakfast state: fruits, nuts and flakes."
Website: http://webpages.charter.net/dawill/tmoranwms
s***@propulsionpolymers.com
2005-06-03 22:58:02 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@post.com
First, this is for a "Robinson Crusoe" slash "The Mysterious Island"
style story I am writing. If my protagonist wanted to make gunpowder, I
know how he'd get charcoal and saltpetre, but how would he be able to
get pure sulfur powder?
Is there a sour-gas processing plant on a nearby island? :-) :-) :-)
:-)

[Sour gas processing--processing natural gas with a high sulfur
content, produces elemental sulfur as a bi-product. Huge great
piles of it that just sit around, blowing in the wind until
someone ships it off to make margarine, tires, and bleached paper].
donald j haarmann
2005-06-04 01:48:26 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@post.com
First, this is for a "Robinson Crusoe" slash "The Mysterious Island"
style story I am writing. If my protagonist wanted to make gunpowder, I
know how he'd get charcoal and saltpetre, but how would he be able to
get pure sulfur powder?
-----------
Sorry ... you dobe tooooooo late. This being done in a galaxy faraway on a StarTrek
episode... you remember .... Cpt. K vs. the lizard looking alien Cpt.

There was a thread on this here in rec.pyro not long ago. Check www.Deja.com 4 details.
--
donald j haarmann
-----------------------------
As if ordained by Fate, Nitre, that admirable salt,
hath made as much noise in Philosophy as in
War, all the world being filled with its thunder.

John Mayow
Ttractalus Quinque Medico-Physici, 1674
s***@post.com
2005-06-04 03:05:11 UTC
Permalink
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.

Also, the fact that I used "Robinson Crusoe" and "The Mysterious
Island" as examples is a bit misleading. I do not necessarily intend
for the story to even be set on an island.

I shouldn't have to discuss the plot or whatnot of my story, I would
just like some help with the question.

My question is: What ways could my characters acquire sulfur without
the massive infrastructure of a civilization.
Tim Williams
2005-06-04 05:18:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@post.com
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 s***@post.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.

Tim

--
"California is the breakfast state: fruits, nuts and flakes."
Website: http://webpages.charter.net/dawill/tmoranwms
Bill Westfield
2005-06-04 05:42:17 UTC
Permalink
You can make somewhat "ok" black powder without sulfer...

And given electricity, it might be easier to get H3...

BillW
sanscan
2005-06-04 15:34:18 UTC
Permalink
Isn't sulpher often found as a residue in/at thermal ponds?
Think Yellowstone...
Post by Bill Westfield
You can make somewhat "ok" black powder without sulfer...
And given electricity, it might be easier to get H3...
BillW
PyroLeo
2005-06-04 18:20:45 UTC
Permalink
Isn't sulpher often found as a residue in/at thermal ponds? Think
Yellowstone...
Post by Bill Westfield
You can make somewhat "ok" black powder without sulfer...
And given electricity, it might be easier to get H3...
BillW
Maybe I'm just getting a bit dubious in my old age. Since he's blown
off all our suggestions so far I think his story is a load of crap.
More likely he's trying to reinvent the wheel and make the sulfur
himself for some inane reason instead of buying it. He's just another
newbie that feels that he has to con us so nobody will know what he's up
to. After all there's no way a character in the wilderness could make
KNO3 without finding a natural source of some nitrate to begin with, and
not many readers that wouldn't fall asleep reading about it.

To Don, I always thought Star Trek's implementation of that story was
kinda lame with the chemicals just laying around on the ground along
with diamonds for projectiles, flint to make sparks, and a big bamboo
tube (in a desert?). Then Kirk dry mixes it all together chunky style
without even weighing anything, and it goes off like Goex. Not to
mention the cheesy looking suit the alien wore. Still one of my
all-time favorite series though, just not that particular episode.

Leo
Bob Forward
2005-06-04 18:32:42 UTC
Permalink
As a child, I remember reading a book (something about a "Mushroom
Planet") in which an alien race which was dying from sulfur deficiency
was cured by eating egg yolks. Apparently chickens can extract sulfur
from plants, etc. I'm not sure how you would go about getting sulfur
from egg yolks, but there is no question the stuff's in there.

Bob
s***@post.com
2005-06-05 02:56:17 UTC
Permalink
Perhaps one could heat up powdered egg yolks in a reducing flame and
condense the fumes on a cold surface. Would some sulfur crystals form
on that surface?

Hmm
PyroLeo
2005-06-05 03:25:48 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@post.com
Perhaps one could heat up powdered egg yolks in a reducing flame and
condense the fumes on a cold surface. Would some sulfur crystals form
on that surface?
Hmm
You apparently have a nearly unlimited supply of both time and eggs on
your hands in this desolate wilderness, considering the miniscule
quantity of sulfur in each egg.

Leo
donald j haarmann
2005-06-04 21:02:31 UTC
Permalink
Post by PyroLeo
To Don, I always thought Star Trek's implementation of that story was
kinda lame with the chemicals just laying around on the ground along
with diamonds for projectiles, flint to make sparks, and a big bamboo
tube (in a desert?). Then Kirk dry mixes it all together chunky style
without even weighing anything, and it goes off like Goex.
---------
That's why he is da Captain!
--
donald j haarmann
------------------------------
At a Scottish wedding the bridegroom, as was
customary at a wedding breakfast, arose to
respond to the toast of the health of the bride. He
was not used to public speaking and, words
failing him, he contented himself with the response,
"Well, there's naething wrang with the woman" ; and
in proposing the toast of "Applied Science" he
should like to point the moral of this story, and say
that there was nothing wrong with it ; that it was in a
state of absolute health, and in this country, as well
as in others, it was in a state of marvelous fertility,
and as each branch of Applied Sciences was apparently
capable of producing any number of other branches of
Applied Science, as time went on they might expect
a somewhat numerous family.

Sir William Ramsay K.C.B.. D.Sc., LL.D., lF.R.S.
Bradford, Wednesday, July 15, 1903
donald j haarmann
2005-06-04 21:11:05 UTC
Permalink
Post by sanscan
Isn't sulpher often found as a residue in/at thermal ponds?
Think Yellowstone...
-----
No. The ponds do however, produce arsenic - arsenic/sulphides. I found
sulphur xtls in Yellowstone ca 1970 forming around volcanic vents.

Trivia - Where was the primary source of sulphur before Herman Frasch's
house sunk 70'! Hint - Sale of its production was a French monopoly.




--------------------------------
That old mixture [black powder] possesses a truly admirable elasticity which
permits its adaptation to purposes of the most varied nature. Thus, in a mine it is
wanted to blast without propelling; in a gun to propel without blasting ; in a shell it
serves both purposes combined; in a fuse, as in fireworks, it burns quite slowly
without exploding. Its pressure exercised in those numerous operations, varies
between 1 oz. (more or less) to the square inch in a fuse, and 85,000 lb. to the
square inch in a shell. But like a servant for all work, it lacks perfection in each
department, and modern science armed with better tools, is gradually
encroaching on its old domain.
A. Nobel
donald j haarmann
2005-06-05 23:19:13 UTC
Permalink
Post by donald j haarmann
Post by sanscan
Isn't sulpher often found as a residue in/at thermal ponds?
Think Yellowstone...
-----
No. The ponds do however, produce arsenic - arsenic/sulphides. I found
sulphur xtls in Yellowstone ca 1970 forming around volcanic vents.
Actually ... yes... sorry. Elemental sulphur is found at Mammoth Hot Springs in "tufas or
other porous host rocks."

Elemental commercial deposits of sulphur occur either as crystalline or amorphous
sulphur in sedimentary rocks in close association with gypsum and limestone. Or as
in Japan and South American in association with volcanoes (solfatara deposits).

Molre — change ca 1970 to ca 1967.
--
donald j haarmann
------------------
And though it be very true that man is but
the Minister of Nature, and can but duely
apply Agents to Patients (the rest of the
Work being done by the applyed Bodies
themselves), yet by his skill in making
these Applications, he is able to perform
such things as do not only give him a
Power to master Creatures otherwise
much stronger than himselfe; but may
enable one man to do such wonders,
as another man shall think he cannot
sufficiently admire. As the poor Indians
lookt upon the Spaniards as more than
Men, because the Knowledg they had
of the Properties of Nitre, Suplphur and
Charcoal duely mixt, enabled them to
Thunder and Lighten so fatally, when
they pleas'd.

Robert Boyle
Some Considerations touching the
Usefulnesse of Experimental Philosophy,
propos'd in a Familiar Discourse to a
Friend, by way of Invitation to the
Study of it. 1663
John DuBois
2005-06-06 16:26:15 UTC
Permalink
Post by donald j haarmann
Post by donald j haarmann
Post by sanscan
Isn't sulpher often found as a residue in/at thermal ponds?
Think Yellowstone...
No. The ponds do however, produce arsenic - arsenic/sulphides. I found
sulphur xtls in Yellowstone ca 1970 forming around volcanic vents.
Actually ... yes... sorry. Elemental sulphur is found at Mammoth Hot Springs in "tufas or
other porous host rocks."
At Lassen Volcanic Park, you can see rings of sulphur around some of the ponds,
and even a film of sulphur on some of them.

The Lassen area was at one time mined for sulphurous clay, and one of the
things it's used for is the extraction of sulphur on a commercial scale.

John
--
John DuBois ***@armory.com KC6QKZ/AE http://www.armory.com/~spcecdt/
s***@googlemail.com
2017-07-26 01:14:26 UTC
Permalink
One of the byproducts of burning coal is sulphur oxide, you could use that and then use a more reactive element than sulphur to displace it
l***@yahoo.com
2005-06-04 17:15:58 UTC
Permalink
We were lucky. We extracted our sulfur from the drugstore. (as kids any
way....)
donald j haarmann
2005-06-04 21:45:04 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@post.com
First, this is for a "Robinson Crusoe" slash "The Mysterious Island"
style story I am writing. If my protagonist wanted to make gunpowder, I
know how he'd get charcoal and saltpetre, but how would he be able to
get pure sulfur powder?
--------
Me again - the analogue book reading guy in a digital world ... got up from the computer
and pulled off the shelf - Wilfrid Wyld, Raw Materials for the Manufacture of Sulfuric
acid and the Manufacture of Sulphur Dioxide, Gurney and Jackson, London. 1923.

Roasting pyrites (iron - fools gold) and condensing the fumes passes the KISS test.

Sulphur dioxide and CaS can be had from calcium sulphate (Plaster of Paris) and
thence elemental sulphur, however, not under primitive conditions!
--
donald j haarmann
-----------------------------
"In nature there are neither rewards nor
punishments - there are consequences! "
Bill Hanna
2005-06-05 15:28:03 UTC
Permalink
On 3 Jun 2005 11:43:38 -0700, While running hot, ***@post.com
posted:
.
Post by s***@post.com
First, this is for a "Robinson Crusoe" slash "The Mysterious Island"
style story I am writing. If my protagonist wanted to make gunpowder, I
know how he'd get charcoal and saltpetre, but how would he be able to
get pure sulfur powder?
Any and all semi plausible ideas welcome (except, of course, "Get it
from a chemical distributor / the store / etc.") Perhaps I'll be able
to work one of them into the story.
This also relates to a questin I had about Larry Niven's "Ringworld"
series. There are no geological mineral deposits on the Ringworld, so
the Machine People have to work with what's biologically available for
power sources, like alcohol instead of gasoline. Well, in one of the
novels, they're collecting saltpetre to make gunpowder, but where'd
they get the sulfur?
Thanks for any help, and any references to useful places to find help.
Without further information.......... Throughhtout history, there have
usually been people around who posessed sulpur. perhaps he could
rip-off/buy from someone trying to turn lead into gold.

Or perhaps the setting could include a place abandoned. If so... sulpur
could be found.

However, if your story must include extraction..... I suggest a re-write
--
Bill

"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition" -- M.Python --.
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