Question Video: Atoms and Structure Chemistry

At room temperature and pressure, the most stable form of sulfur is the simple molecule S₈. However, heating the material to a high temperature can produce continuous chains of sulfur atoms. Which term best describes the type of structure displayed by high-temperature sulfur? [A] Ionic [B] Simple molecular [C] Giant covalent [D] Metallic [E] Atomic

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Video Transcript

At room temperature and pressure, the most stable form of sulfur is the simple molecule S8. However, heating the material to a high temperature can produce continuous chains of sulfur atoms. Which term best describes the type of structure displayed by high-temperature sulfur? (A) Ionic, (B) simple molecular, (C) giant covalent, (D) metallic, or (E) atomic.

This question is asking about the type of structure displayed by high-temperature sulfur. While they acknowledge that sulfur can form simple molecules, the high-temperature version that they’re talking about involves continuous chains of sulfur atoms. The key words here are “continuous chains.” Which of these five choices describes the structure with continuous chains of atoms bonded together? That’s choice (C), giant covalent structures.

Giant covalent structures involve continuous networks of covalent bonds, exactly what they are describing in the question. To be thorough, let’s eliminate the other choices from consideration as well.

It’s worth noting that sulfur on the right-hand side of the periodic table is a nonmetal, as it forms a sulfur two minus ion. This allows us to eliminate both ionic and metallic from consideration. In the case of metallic, sulfur is a nonmetal, so it can’t form metallic bonds. In the case of ionic, while sulfur can form ionic compounds, there is no metal to provide a positive ion to form the other half of the ionic bond in this situation.

It is not a simple molecular structure, either, because simple molecular structures are not continuous. Continuous implies that the chains go on and on with an indefinite size, whereas simple molecules have a definite size. Lastly, atomic structure is too general of a term to best to describe the structure displayed here. While we could describe the giant covalent network described here as an atomic structure, we could also describe all chemical compounds as atomic structures. So, it’s not a narrow enough term to specifically describe the structure displayed here.

In the end, the key piece of information to recognize is that a continuous chain of atoms suggest a giant covalent structure. Note that giant covalent and network covalent are different names for the same structure, and we can use them interchangeably.

So, which term best describes the type of structure displayed by high-temperature sulfur? That’s a giant covalent structure.

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