Sulfur vs. Sulfate

By Jaxson

Main Difference

The main difference between Sulfur and Sulfate is that the Sulfur is a element with the atomic number of 16 and Sulfate is a anion.

  • Sulfur

    Sulfur or sulphur is a chemical element with symbol S and atomic number 16. It is abundant, multivalent, and nonmetallic. Under normal conditions, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with a chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow crystalline solid at room temperature. Chemically, sulfur reacts with all elements except for gold, platinum, iridium, tellurium, and the noble gases.

    Sulfur is the tenth most common element by mass in the universe, and the fifth most common on Earth. Though sometimes found in pure, native form, sulfur on Earth usually occurs as sulfide and sulfate minerals. Being abundant in native form, sulfur was known in ancient times, being mentioned for its uses in ancient India, ancient Greece, China, and Egypt. In the Bible, sulfur is called brimstone. Today, almost all elemental sulfur is produced as a byproduct of removing sulfur-containing contaminants from natural gas and petroleum. The greatest commercial use of the element is the production of sulfuric acid for sulfate and phosphate fertilizers, and other chemical processes. The element sulfur is used in matches, insecticides, and fungicides. Many sulfur compounds are odoriferous, and the smells of odorized natural gas, skunk scent, grapefruit, and garlic are due to organosulfur compounds. Hydrogen sulfide gives the characteristic odor to rotting eggs and other biological processes.

    Sulfur is an essential element for all life, but almost always in the form of organosulfur compounds or metal sulfides. Three amino acids (cysteine, cystine, and methionine) and two vitamins (biotin and thiamine) are organosulfur compounds. Many cofactors also contain sulfur including glutathione and thioredoxin and iron–sulfur proteins. Disulfides, S–S bonds, confer mechanical strength and insolubility of the protein keratin, found in outer skin, hair, and feathers. Sulfur is one of the core chemical elements needed for biochemical functioning and is an elemental macronutrient for all living organisms.

  • Sulfate

    The sulfate or sulphate (see spelling differences) ion is a polyatomic anion with the empirical formula SO2−4. Sulfate is the spelling recommended by IUPAC, but sulphate is used in British English. Salts, acid derivatives, and peroxides of sulfate are widely used in industry. Sulfates occur widely in everyday life. Sulfates are salts of sulfuric acid and many are prepared from that acid.

  • Sulfur (noun)

    A chemical element (symbol S) with an atomic number of 16.

  • Sulfur (noun)

    A yellowish green colour, like that of sulfur.

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  • Sulfur (adjective)

    Of a yellowish green colour, like that of sulfur.

  • Sulfur (verb)

    To treat with sulfur, or a sulfur compound, especially to preserve or to counter agricultural pests.

  • Sulfate (noun)

    Any ester of sulfuric acid.

  • Sulfate (noun)

    Any salt of sulfuric acid.

  • Sulfate (verb)

    To treat something with sulfuric acid, a sulfate, or with sulfur dioxide.

  • Sulfate (verb)

    To accumulate a deposit of lead sulfate.


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