Removal of small elemental sulfur particles by polysulfide formation in a sulfidic reactor

Annemerel R. Mol*, Sebastian D. Pruim, Milan de Korte, Derek J.M. Meuwissen, Renata D. van der Weijden, Johannes B.M. Klok, Karel J. Keesman, Cees J.N. Buisman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


For over 30 years, biological gas desulfurization under halo-alkaline conditions has been studied and optimized. This technology is currently applied in already 270 commercial installations worldwide. Sulfur particle separation, however, remains a challenge; a fraction of sulfur particles is often too small for liquid-solid separation with conventional separation technology. In this article, we report the effects of a novel sulfidic reactor, inserted in the conventional process set-up, on sulfur particle size and morphology. In the sulfidic reactor polysulfide is produced by the reaction of elemental sulfur particles and sulfide, which is again converted to elemental sulfur in a gas-lift reactor. We analyzed sulfur particles produced in continuous, long term lab-scale reactor experiments under various sulfide concentrations and sulfidic retention times. The analyses were performed with laser diffraction particle size analysis and light microscopy. These show that the smallest particles (< 1 µm) have mostly disappeared under the highest sulfide concentration (4.1 mM) and sulfidic retention time (45 min). Under these conditions also agglomeration of sulfur particles was promoted. Model calculations with thermodynamic and previously derived kinetic data on polysulfide formation confirm the experimental data on the removal of the smallest particles. Under the ‘highest sulfidic pressure’, the model predicts that equilibrium conditions are reached between sulfur, sulfide and polysulfide and that 100% of the sulfur particles <1 µm are dissolved by the (autocatalytic) formation of polysulfides. These experiments and modeling results demonstrate that the insertion of a novel sulfidic reactor in the conventional process set-up promotes the removal of the smallest individual sulfur particles and promotes the production of sulfur agglomerates. The novel sulfidic reactor is therefore a promising process addition with the potential to improve process operation, sulfur separation and sulfur recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119296
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • Biological desulfurization
  • Elemental sulfur
  • Particle size
  • Polysulfide
  • Sulfide


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