hydrogen sulfide

hydrogen sulfide, chemical compound, H2S, a colorless, extremely poisonous gas that has a very disagreeable odor, much like that of rotten eggs. It is slightly soluble in water and is soluble in carbon disulfide. Dissolved in water, it forms a very weak dibasic acid that is sometimes called hydrosulfuric acid. Hydrogen sulfide is flammable; in an excess of air it burns to form sulfur dioxide and water, but if not enough oxygen is present, it forms elemental sulfur and water. Hydrogen sulfide is found naturally in volcanic gases and in some mineral waters. It is often formed during decay of animal matter. It is a part of many unrefined carbonaceous fuels, e.g., natural gas, crude oil, and coal; it is obtained as a byproduct of refining such fuels. It may be made by reacting hydrogen gas with molten sulfur or with sulfur vapors, or by treating a metal sulfide (e.g., ferrous sulfide, FeS) with an acid. Hydrogen sulfide reacts with most metal ions to form sulfides; the sulfides of some metals are insoluble in water and have characteristic colors that help to identify the metal during chemical analysis. Hydrogen sulfide also reacts directly with silver metal, forming a dull, gray-black tarnish of silver sulfide (Ag2S).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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