IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


30th August, 2023 Science and Technology

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  • Chandrayaan-3 mission's rover, Pragyan, has made significant discoveries on the moon's surface near its south pole, according to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).


Rover's Findings

  • Pragyan, the rover of the Chandrayaan-3 mission, has confirmed the presence of sulfur (S) on the moon's surface near its south pole.
  • The rover is also in the process of searching for hydrogen (H) in the same region.

Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS)

  • The in-situ measurements were made using the Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) instrument aboard the rover.
  • LIBS is a scientific technique that involves using intense laser pulses to analyze the composition of materials by generating localized plasma.
  • The light emitted by the plasma is analyzed to determine the elemental composition of the material.

Elements Detected

  • Preliminary analyses of the data have revealed the presence of various elements on the lunar surface, including aluminum (Al), sulfur (S), calcium (Ca), iron (Fe), chromium (Cr), titanium (Ti), manganese (Mn), silicon (Si), and oxygen (O).
  • These measurements were not feasible using the instruments aboard the orbiters.


  • The in-situ measurements provide valuable insights into the elemental composition of the moon's surface, particularly in a region where it was previously unconfirmed.
  • The confirmation of sulfur and ongoing search for hydrogen contribute to our understanding of lunar geology and resources.

National Space Day

  • August 23 has been designated as National Space Day to celebrate the mission's success and India's contributions to space exploration.

About Sulfur

  • Sulfur is a chemical element with the symbol "S" and atomic number 16.
  • It is a non-metal that plays a crucial role in various biological, industrial, and environmental processes.

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Sulfur is found in various forms, including solid crystals and compounds.
  • It is a bright yellow, odorless, and brittle substance.
  • Sulfur is a poor conductor of heat and electricity.
  • It is abundant in nature and often occurs in combination with other elements, forming a wide range of compounds.

Occurrence and Sources

  • Sulfur occurs naturally in the Earth's crust and is found in minerals like pyrite (iron sulfide) and gypsum (calcium sulfate).
  • It is also found in various ores and in underground deposits.
  • Volcanic activity releases sulfur compounds into the atmosphere, contributing to the "smell of sulfur" often associated with volcanic regions.

Biological Importance

  • Sulfur is an essential element for all living organisms. It is a key component of amino acids like cysteine and methionine, which are building blocks of proteins.
  • Many enzymes and coenzymes in biological processes contain sulfur, contributing to their functionality.

Industrial Applications

  • Sulfur has a wide range of industrial uses. One of the most common uses is in the production of sulfuric acid (H2SO4), a highly important industrial chemical.
  • Sulfuric acid is used in the manufacture of fertilizers, chemicals, detergents, and various other products.
  • Sulfur compounds are used in the vulcanization of rubber to improve its durability and elasticity.
  • Sulfur is a component in the production of paper, batteries, and various types of polymers.

Environmental Impact

  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is a major air pollutant emitted from various industrial processes, including the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil.
  • SO2 contributes to the formation of acid rain, which can have harmful effects on ecosystems, water bodies, and infrastructure.
  • Sulfur compounds in the atmosphere can also contribute to the formation of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which has implications for air quality and human health.

Mineral Resources

  • Sulfur is often extracted from underground deposits through mining processes.
  • The sulfur industry is essential for providing the raw material required for the production of sulfuric acid and other sulfur-containing compounds.

Historical and Cultural Significance

  • Sulfur has been known and used by humans for centuries. Ancient civilizations used sulfur for medicinal and cosmetic purposes.
  • In various cultures, sulfur has been associated with purification and healing properties.

Forms of sulfur

Elemental Sulfur

  • Elemental sulfur is the most common form of sulfur and is often found in nature in the form of yellow crystals.
  • It is the purest form of sulfur and is often extracted from underground deposits through mining processes.
  • Elemental sulfur is used in various industrial applications, including the production of sulfuric acid and fertilizers.


  • Sulfides are compounds in which sulfur is bonded with a metal or another element.
  • Examples include iron sulfide (FeS2, known as pyrite or "fool's gold"), lead sulfide (PbS, known as galena), and zinc sulfide (ZnS, used in luminescent materials).


  • Sulfates are compounds containing sulfur and oxygen, often bonded to a metal.
  • Gypsum (calcium sulfate dihydrate, CaSO4·2H2O) and anhydrite (calcium sulfate, CaSO4) are common sulfate minerals.
  • Sulfates are also found in minerals like barite (barium sulfate, BaSO4) and Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate heptahydrate, MgSO4·7H2O).

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)

  • Sulfur dioxide is a gas formed when sulfur is burned in the presence of oxygen.
  • It is a major air pollutant released from industrial processes and combustion of fossil fuels.
  • Sulfur dioxide contributes to the formation of acid rain and can have harmful effects on the environment and human health.

Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S)

  • Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless gas with a strong odor of rotten eggs.
  • It is produced naturally by certain bacteria during decay processes and can be found in volcanic gases.
  • Hydrogen sulfide is highly toxic and poses health risks to humans at high concentrations.

Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF6)

  • Sulfur hexafluoride is a compound consisting of sulfur and six fluorine atoms.
  • It is a colorless, odorless gas with excellent electrical insulating properties.
  • SF6 is used in various electrical applications, including as an insulating gas in high-voltage equipment.

Organic Sulfur Compounds

  • Sulfur is a crucial element in organic molecules found in living organisms.
  • Amino acids like cysteine and methionine contain sulfur, contributing to the structure of proteins.
  • Compounds like dimethyl sulfide (DMS) are produced by marine organisms and play a role in atmospheric chemistry.

Elemental Sulfur Allotropes

  • Sulfur has several allotropes, which are different structural forms of the same element.
  • These allotropes include rhombic sulfur and monoclinic sulfur, each with distinct crystal structures.


Chandrayaan-3 mission's rover, Pragyan, has confirmed the presence of sulfur on the moon's surface and is actively searching for hydrogen. These findings mark a significant step in understanding the lunar environment and its resources. The mission's success is being celebrated not only by ISRO but also by the Indian government as a symbol of India's advancements in space exploration.


Q. Sulfur is a versatile element with significant biological, industrial, and environmental importance. Elaborate. (150 Words)