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

Woo Jin Chung, Jared J. Griebel, Eui Tae Kim, Hyunsik Yoon, Adam G. Simmonds, Hyun Jun Ji, Philip T. Dirlam, Richard S. Glass, Jeong Jae Wie, Ngoc A. Nguyen, Brett W. Guralnick, Jungjin Park, Árpád Somogyi, Patrick Theato, Michael E. Mackay, Yung Eun Sung, Kookheon Char, Jeffrey Pyun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

992 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)518-524
Number of pages7
JournalNature Chemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge the University of Arizona (UA), Arizona Research Institute for Solar Energy, the World Class University Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (R31-10013), the Laboratory for Electrochemical Energy at the UA and the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund (51026-ND10) for support of this work. K.C. acknowledges financial support from the National Research Foundation for the National Creative Research Initiative Center for Intelligent Hybrids (2010-0018290). Y-E.S. acknowledges financial support from the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology through the Institute of Basic Science Program.


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