Sulfur is a common byproduct of the oil refining process: hydrodesulfurization produces around 0.5 lb of sulfur for every 19 gallons of gasoline that is processed [1,2]. A team led by professor Jeffrey Pyun and Ph.D. student Jared Griebel at the University of Arizona have developed a new process to create a useful polymer from this waste stream .
A traditional use for elemental sulfur has been as feedstock for sulfuric acid . However, recently, sulfur production is far outpacing market demand, and refineries are developing huge stockpiles of the material . The new polymer developed at UA has potential uses as both a structural plastic and as a better constituent material in the Li-S rechargeable battery chemistry . For these batteries, compared to traditional materials, the new polymer demonstrates improved properties of specific capacity and capacity retention . The team, along with other co-authors, published their results in Nature Chemistry, and three companies are currently investigating commercial applications for the material [2,3].