Sulfur is a commonly found chemical element and is found naturally on earth in its free form and in a number of minerals. It is represented by the chemical symbol S and the atomic number 16. It is a bright yellow solid at room temperature and has been known since ancient times. Sulfur is the 10th most abundant element in the universe and it is also a common element on earth (17th most common in the crust of the plante). All naturally occurring sulfur on earth is made up of 5 isotopes, although only 4 of these are stable. Let’s find out how many isotopes of sulfur have been identified.
How many isotopes does sulfur have?
The four stable isotopes of sulfur are: 32S, 33S, 34S and 36S. Sulfur-32 makes up the 95.02% of all naturally occurring sulfur, with 4.21% made up of sulfur-34, 0.75% made up of sulfur-33 and the 0.02% by sulfur-36. The unstable isotope (radioisotope) 35S makes up trace amounts of naturally occurring sulfur. It is formed in the atmosphere and has a half life of about 87 days.
There are 20 other unstable isotopes of sulfur that have been discovered and all are short lived. The longest lived after 35S is 38S with a half life of 170 minutes. Of all of the remaining unstable isotopes only 1 other has a half life of more than a minute. The shortest is 49S, which has a half life of less than 200 nanoseconds!
The most common daughter isotopes of the radioactive isotopes below 32S are phosphorous and silicon. All of the unstable isotopes above 34S, apart from 49S, decay to chlorine.