A sulfur stockpile at the processing facilities of Syncrude in Alberta, Canada (Photo: David Dodge/The Pembina Institute)
A petri dish of the sulfur-based polymer next to a (very small) stockpile of sulfur powder (Photo: Jared Griebel/ Pyun lab, University of Arizona department of chemistry and biochemistry)
Whether sulfur is a by-product or a waste product of oil refinement and coal combustion depends on how you slice it. Certainly, some of that sulfur can be put to use producing sulfuric acid, fertilizer and other chemicals, but much of it is accumulating into stockpiles that are expensive to maintain (due to the need to neutralize acidic run-off). Researchers at the University of Arizona think more of that sulfur could be put to use thanks to a new chemical process that uses sulfur to make plastics that may one day be used to make a new generation of lighter, more efficient lithium-sulfur batteries.
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