MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: Why can sulfur form S8 and oxygen at most O3?

Date: Tue Feb 3 14:07:32 1998
Posted By: Uncle Al Schwartz, Organic synthesist
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 886055159.Ch

Yes. Sulfur has low-lying d-orbitals. It has a richer chemistry than oxygen.

1) High temperature sulfur vapor can be cryogenically quenched to S2. Oxygen is diatomic naturally, as a paramagentic triplet biradical.
2) Sulfur rings have been made from the very small to the very large. Linear chains of sulfur are quite stable - the polysulfides. Polysulfide rubber is a commercial product. Peroxides are unstable. Linear trioxides have been made (F3C- caps) and are quite explosive.
3) Look at selenium and tellurium. The trend toward chain formation (catenation) intensifies with the heavier elements of the chalcogenides.

You should visit a university library and see "Advanced Inorganic Chemistry" by Cottona and Wilkinson, books devoted to sulfur chemistry, and literature review articles on naming variously sized sulfur rings (via dicyclopentadienide titanium polysulfide chemistry, for instance).

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