To understand the many important functions of sulfur, a ubiquitous element in biological systems, in the environment and for industrial applications, detailed analyses are needed. Characterization of the variety of sulfur functional groups in a natural sample, often occurring in a wide range of oxidation states, became possible when the development of dedicated X-ray absorption near-edge structure (XANES) spectroscopy started in the mid-1980s. This tutorial review provides an overview of sulfur XANES spectroscopic investigations into the role of sulfur in all kinds of natural samples, from sediment and oil to marine-archaeological wood and plants.
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