What is the chemical P2P and what is its original design intended for?
P2P is an abbreviation for the chemical phenyl-2-propanone which is also known as phenylacetone. As the name suggests this is just a phenyl group with an acetone attached. Phenylacetone is typically not a desired end product, but an intermediate in the synthesis of amphetamines. Phenylacetone is also produced as a product of metabolic breakdown of amphetamines in the human body. Phenylacetone has garnered more attention in recent years as the intermediate Walter White used in Breaking Bad to create Methamphetamine via reductive amination of phenylacetone with methylamine.
Breaking Bad: Season 1: Episode 7: "A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal"
If you were to walk into a pharmacy and attempt to buy 400 boxes of decongestant, you would almost certainly find yourself talking to the police very quickly. This is why meth cookers employ small armies of "smurfs" to go out and buy quantities that don't arouse suspicion, though it does put quite severe limits on the amount of methamphetamine that can be made.
Faced with this unattractive fact, Walt applies his formidable problem-solving skills and comes up with a different method to make methamphetamine that doesn't require ephedrine or pseudoephedrine: reductive amination of phenylacetone with methylamine. Jesse greets this plan with the enthusiasm that makes a chemist's job worthwhile - "Yeah...science!"
He might not be so impressed once he find out what these compounds smell like (methylamine in particular gives off a strong fishy odour) - in fact, labs using this method are often busted due to their pervasive stench.
The government cottoned on to the fact that you can make methamphetamine from phenylacetone quite a long time ago, and made it a controlled substance. Walt clearly knows this, as he doesn't have Jesse try to buy some but rather opts to make it himself. There are several ways to make phenylacetone, but it sounds like Walt will be reacting phenylacetic acid with acetic acid (the acid that's in vinegar) as he requires both a tube furnace and a thorium nitrate catalyst (Th(NO3)4); an unusual choice, as it's radioactive and a manganese-based catalyst should work just as well).
Methamphetamine Manufacturing with Phenyl Acetone:
- Substances that can be found at a laboratory that used this route:
- Phenyl acetone
- Methyl amine or methyl amine hydrochloride
- Formaldehyde, ammonia
- Hydrochloric acid
- Aluminum foil, mercuric chloride
- Organic solvents like ether, benzene, chloroform, kerosene or white gas
- Lye or washing soda
- In addition, if the phenyl acetone precursor needs to be synthesized first, then other substances that can be found at a laboratory may include:
- Magnesium turnings
- Benzyl chloride or benzyl bromide
- Sodium cyanide or acetic anhydride
- Ether tetrahydrofuran, or Phenylaceticacid and thorium oxide.
A Preparation of Phenylacetone:
1938 Boston University Graduate School Thesis:
Phenylacetone has been prepared from benzene and chloro-acetone in the presence of aluminum chloride with a yield of 41% calculated on the basis of the chloroacetone used. Seventeen runs were made in order to determine the optimum conditions for the reaction and the most efficient method of purification. The method of bringing the reactants together, the temperature of the reaction, the ratio of the reactants, and the time of reaction were factors investigated.
Color of Phenylacetone:
- Wikipedia states that phenylacetone is colorless. I made phenylacetone twice. The first time I made several errors but obtained a very small amount of a peach-colored oil. I distilled it twice without vacuum. The final product was a yellow oil that smelled like apples. I attempted to prepare phenylacetone again using a novel synthesis that I devised. Again I obtained a light orange oil. It vacuum distilled through a long column to a yellow oil with the same characteristic apple odor. When the Chem Player channel made phenylacetone using Friedel Crafts alkylation, the product was a yellow oil. The Department of Chemistry channel shows phenylacetone as a colorless oil. Is phenylacetone truly colorless? What purification method might remove yellow impurities? The chemistry was fun, but I destroyed both samples of phenylacetone
Analyses of samples of 1-phenyl-2-propanone
Amphetamine is one of the most popular synthetic drugs in Europe. Its illicit manufacture usually requires the use of the precursor P-2-P. The source of precursor may be licit or illicit manufacture. In Poland, the system of P-2-P pro-filing elaborated by the Central Forensic Laboratory of the Police enables the determination of the route of synthesis and the identification of samples from the same source. Results of analyses and information on circumstances of seizures are entered into the forensic and police databases, which are used in intelligence and investigative police work.All aspects discussed above accentuate the crucial importance of the inter-action of police investigative and intelligence services with the forensic sector in the process of effective detection and suppression of drug-related crime.
How Mexico Became the US's Main Meth Supplier (2014):
Cartels have been utilizing an old recipe known as "P2P" (phenyl-2-propanone) that was mainly used during the 1960s and 1970s. This method has helped criminal groups to circumvent a 2008 Mexican law banning the importation of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine - key ingredients in the manufacture of the drug.
According to a 2013 INCB report, "seizures of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine were almost non-existent [in Mexico] in 2012, as the P2P-based manufacturing process has become the dominant method used."
- The p2p method of methamphetamine synthesis doesn't use ethyl phenylacetate as the feedstock for the main reaction. Phenyl-2-Propanone (hence the P2P abbreviation) is used for the feedstock. P2P aka phenylacetone can probably be synthesized from ethyl phenylacetate (then used to synth meth), but there is no synthesis that I know of that makes methamphetamine straight from ethyl phenylacetate.
- An organic compound
- A colorless oil
- Soluble in organic solvents
- Used in the manufacture of methamphetamine and amphetamine, where it is commonly known as P2P
- Due to the illicit uses in clandestine chemistry, it was declared a schedule II controlled substance in the United States in 1980
In the TV series Breaking Bad, Walter White manufactures methamphetamine through a variation of the P2P method, starting from phenylacetone.
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