Meeting/Event Information

    Margaret E. Schott, Ph.D. (Northwestern U.): "Elemental Sulfur: A Natural (and Unnatural) Resource"

    February 18, 2016
    5:30 PM - 9:30 PM
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    Zhivago Restaurant
    9925 Gross Point Rd
    Skokie, IL 60076



    The story of elemental sulfur, which has also been called brimstone since biblical times, is a fascinating one. And yet beyond volcanic brimstone how many of us know, or were taught, the origins of this solid yellow substance (S8) which has become such a key element for modern day applications? Thanks to the ubiquity of sulfur in today’s world, one expert has even dubbed the period of time in which we are living ‘the sulfur age’. The talk, in addition to bringing to light some of the curious characteristics of sulfur in its many phases and forms, will provide an overview of where elemental sulfur comes from, current methods for safely shipping sulfur over land and sea, some of the major end-uses in commercial products, and new applications emerging from research laboratories.

    We will begin with a look at sulfur and its presence and activity in the universe at large and on the surface of Io, Jupiter’s innermost moon, known for its yellow color and fiery flows. On our own planet there are two natural processes, namely volcanogenic and biogenic, for the formation of elemental sulfur in Earth’s geologic history. We will examine the methods, traditionally employed over the past several hundred years, for the extraction of sulfur from Earth's crust, including the famous (and now mostly historical) Frasch process where superheated water is used to melt underground sulfur, providing a liquid form that can be pumped to the surface.

    Sulfur, which falls under oxygen on the periodic table of elements, has a remarkable number of allotropes beyond its stable cyclo-octa structure, in which eight S atoms form a crown-like ring. We will consider the structure and properties of sulfur’s linear and cyclic allotropes, ranging from S2 in the gas phase all the way up to polycatena Sn (where n >1000 atoms in a chain)! The viscosity of heated sulfur is especially unique. We’ll have a brief look at the methods used nowadays for the industrial scale preparation of “unnatural” or synthetic S8 derived from the multitude of organosulfur components present in unrefined fossil fuels. In fact, so much sulfur has been produced in recent times that the market is experiencing an overcapacity, with enormous piles of solid S8 being stored in football field sized lots at refineries across the globe.

    In order to get the raw material to its manufacturing destination, cargo ships and railcars have to be specially outfitted with heated containers for the long-distance transport of molten sulfur which gets pumped out at the end of its journey. Nowadays, sulfur is used in the large-scale manufacture of products including vulcanized rubber, sulfuric acid, paving and construction materials, matches, black gunpowder and fireworks. Are we living in the sulfur age? The audience will get to decide.


    • 5:30 - 6:30  Registration & Social Hour with cash bar
    • 6:30 - 7:30  Dinner 
    • 7:30 - 7:40  Introductory remarks by Mary Jo Boldingh, Chicago Section Chair
    • 7:40 - 8:30  Lecture by Dr. Margaret E. Schott
    • 8:30 - 9:30  Networking


    • Soup
    • Choice of entree:
      • Chicken Kiev
      • Salmon
      • Potato-stuffed pierogis with vegetables
    • Dessert    


    Dinner reservations are required and should be received by

    12:00 Noon on TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 16!

    PLEASE HONOR YOUR RESERVATIONS.  The Section must pay for all dinner orders.  No-shows will be billed.   Please contact the Section Office via phone (847-391-9091) or email ([email protected]) if you have any questions


    From Chicago From I-294 North/South From I-88
    Take I-94 West to Exit 35, Old Orchard Rd, and turn right to Gross Point Rd and take a right to Zhivago’s Restaurant on the left. Take I-294 north or south to Golf Rd going east.  Travel past I 94 to Gross Point Rd and turn left going north to the restaurant. Travel to 294 and follow instructions above.

    PARKING: Free


    Margaret (Peggy) Schott has been a member of the staff in the Department of Chemistry at Northwestern University for the past eight years. In that capacity she oversees all aspects of the running of a large group (30+) of graduate students and postdocs studying synthetic organic chemistry and nanotechnology under the mentorship of Professor Sir Fraser Stoddart ( She also participates as a member of the department’s Faculty Honors Committee.

    Previous work experiences included research stints at Dow Chemical, the National Institutes of Heath / National Cancer Institute and the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University. She has numerous publications on topics ranging from the chemical modification of antibodies to the cellular immunology of peptide vaccines for cancer, in addition to coursework in immunology and mass spectrometry. In the Chicago area Peggy has taught undergraduate chemistry at Dominican University and the College of DuPage, with courses including general and organic chemistry, chemistry and society, and a seminar on cultural anthropology.

    During more than 35 years of continuous membership in ACS, Peggy has taken part in various Divisions including Organic Chemistry, Chemical Education, and most recently the History of Chemistry. She has served in the Chicago ACS Section as Director and Secretary. 

    Peggy earned a BS in chemistry at The College of William & Mary in Virginia and a PhD in organic chemistry at Northwestern University. There she worked on the chemical synthesis of oligonucleotides ‘before automation’. She also has an MA in Theology from Aquinas Institute in Saint Louis and in her spare time does research, writing and speaking in this field as well as participating in the science and religion dialogue through annual conferences. Among the awards Peggy has received are the Dow Chemical Inventor of the Year and selection as a Northwestern University Employee of the Year Finalist.



    $35.00 Member

    $37.00 Non-member

    $20.00 Student/Unemployed/Retired

    $0.00 Lecture only

    $10.00 Tote bag: CHICAgO elements - blue