The use of elemental sulfur as an alternative feedstock for polymeric materials

Nat Chem. 2013 Jun;5(6):518-24. doi: 10.1038/nchem.1624. Epub 2013 Apr 14.


An excess of elemental sulfur is generated annually from hydrodesulfurization in petroleum refining processes; however, it has a limited number of uses, of which one example is the production of sulfuric acid. Despite this excess, the development of synthetic and processing methods to convert elemental sulfur into useful chemical substances has not been investigated widely. Here we report a facile method (termed 'inverse vulcanization') to prepare chemically stable and processable polymeric materials through the direct copolymerization of elemental sulfur with vinylic monomers. This methodology enabled the modification of sulfur into processable copolymer forms with tunable thermomechanical properties, which leads to well-defined sulfur-rich micropatterned films created by imprint lithography. We also demonstrate that these copolymers exhibit comparable electrochemical properties to elemental sulfur and could serve as the active material in Li-S batteries, exhibiting high specific capacity (823 mA h g(-1) at 100 cycles) and enhanced capacity retention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkenes / chemistry
  • Electric Power Supplies
  • Electrochemistry
  • Electrodes
  • Kinetics
  • Lithium / chemistry
  • Polymerization
  • Polymers / chemical synthesis
  • Polymers / chemistry*
  • Rheology
  • Solubility
  • Sulfur / chemistry*
  • Transition Temperature


  • Alkenes
  • Polymers
  • Sulfur
  • Lithium