Physics & Chemistry

Sulfur dioxide

Sulfur dioxide (chemical formula SO2) is produced by burning sulfur or sulfur-containing compounds. It is also produced by burning coal and, e.g., producing metals from their sulfides, like copper sulfide. Natural sources of sulfur dioxide are volcanoes and algae-producing di-methyl sulfide, which is converted to sulfur dioxide in the ambient atmosphere.

Sulfur dioxide is used in paper-making and other chemical processes as a bleaching agent. It is formed as the first step in the production of sulfuric acid, which has very wide applications. Fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, can contain sulfur from trace amounts to a few percent and the combustion of these fuels results in emissions of sulfur dioxide. The only fossil fuel which can contain little or practically no sulfur is natural gas.

Sulfur emissions by fossil fuel-fired facilities can be greatly reduced (>95%) by the application of wet and dry desulfurization installations, based on either washing with a calcium hydroxide solution or reaction with calcium oxide.




Slanina, S. (2011). Sulfur dioxide. Retrieved from


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