From Garbage to Plastics and Beyond: Sustainable Chemistry via Polymerizations with Elemental Sulfur
Jeffrey Pyun, University of Arizona
An incredible surfeit of elemental sulfur (nearly 7 million tons annually) is generated via refining of fossil fuels to remove hazardous emission from gasoline. Furthermore, the remain very limited uses for this waste sulfur in the chemical industry for various chemical, or material applications (the exception being sulfuric acid production. Hence, to address this important environmental and chemical challenge, we have developed new chemical synthetic and processing methods for the utilization of elemental sulfur to form polymeric materials. We recently demonstrated the use of liquid sulfur as the reaction medium for the synthesis of chemically stable and processable copolymer materials using a methodology, termed, inverse vulcanization (Fig. 1). 3,4,5 We discuss the significance of the “excess sulfur problem” along with useful properties and application of sulfur based plastics.