Dellebarre Compound Microscope (circa 1777)


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Spike (M.I.) Walker

Crystals of Sulphur

English photomicrographer Spike (M.I.) Walker has been a consistent winner of the Nikon Small World competition for many years and has published many articles and a book about microscopy. Featured below is a photomicrograph of sulphur that was mixed with various organic compounds, including acetanilide and urea.

Crystals of sulphur

A tiny amount of sulphur (several milligrams) was mixed with various organic compounds, including acetanilide and urea, and carefully melted under a cover glass. After melting, the preparation was quickly removed from the hotplate and the cover was pressed down firmly before any of the constituents could recrystallize (to reduce the thickness of the preparation). The objective was a plan apochromat 4x/0.16 NA coupled with a low power achromatic condenser. The microscope was a Zeiss Ultraphot III equipped with an automatic 35-millimeter photohead. The film was Fujichrome Velvia. (10x)

Sulphur is a nonmetallic chemical element belonging to the oxygen family (Group VIa of the periodic table) and is one of the most reactive of the elements. Pure sulfur is a tasteless, odorless, brittle solid that is pale yellow in color, a poor conductor of electricity, and insoluble in water. It was known to the ancients and referred to as brimstone in the Old Testament. Sulphur was first classified as an element in 1777 by Antoine Lavoisier and is estimated to be the ninth most abundant element in the universe. It makes up about 0.03 percent of the Earth's crust and is the most abundant constituent of minerals.

Free sulphur occurs primarily in volcanic or sedimentary deposits throughout the world, with heavy concentrations located in the sediments of the Gulf coast of North America. Sulphur compounds can be found in coal, petroleum, and natural gas and in sulfide ores such as pyrite (iron disulfide), galena (lead sulfide), cinnabar (mercury sulfide), sphalerite (zinc sulfide), and chalcopyrite (copper iron sulfide), as well as sulfates such as gypsum (calcium sulfate) and barite or heavy spar (barium sulfate).

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