1 Nov 2019

Sulfur - king of bad smells

From Elemental, 8:00 am on 1 November 2019

Sulfur is associated with many bad smells, think farts and Rotorua. The smells are caused by thiols, also known as mercaptans, which are compounds with a sulfur bonded to a hydrogen. An example is the smell of H2S, or rotten egg gas, which can be fatal.

However, thiols are also responsible for more pleasant aromas, such as the smell of grapefruit and coffee.

Crude oil contains lots of sulfur, and when petrol or diesel with high levels of sulfur is burnt it can result in the release of the atmospheric pollutant sulfur dioxide.

Sulfuric acid is the number one industrial chemical on earth, much of which is used in the production of fertilisers, says Professor Allan Blackman from the Auckland University of Technology, in episode 79 of Elemental.

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Photo: RNZ

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Professor Allan Blackman is at Auckland University of Technology.