Elemental Business: Sulphur

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Sulphur is in abundant supply thanks to its extraction from sour oil and gas, in order to prevent acid rain pollution. But does the world face a glut of this chemical element, famed for its colour and odour? And if so, what uses can it be put to?

Justin Rowlatt has his hair cut as professor Andrea Sella of University College London, demonstrates sulphur's surprisingly plastic - and acrid - qualities. He travels to the leafy London suburb of Twickenham to find out about Joshua Ward, the charlatan who set up the world's first sulphuric acid factory.

We hear from Richard Hands, editor of Sulphur magazine, about the element's many industrial uses, as well as the gigantic heaps of unwanted sulphur piling up in Canada and Florida. And, Mike Lumley, who leads efforts at Shell to find uses for the oil giant's sulphur bi-product, explains why the end of acid rain has opened up a surprising new source of demand.

Finally, Justin speaks to Dr Robert Ballard - the man who located the shipwreck of the Titanic - about why he actually considers a sulphur-linked oceanic discovery to be his greatest achievement.

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18 minutes

Last on

Wed 16 Jul 2014 07:32 GMT

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