Friday, August 30, 2013


"The methylamine keeps flowing, no matter what. We are not ramping down. We're just getting started.  Nothing stops this train." 
- Walter White, Chemistry Teacher and Methamphetamine Producer, known more commonly as "Heisenberg"

*Disclaimer: I do not use illegal drugs nor do I support the use of chemistry to create illegal substances. I just like a TV show. 

As I skimmed through the extra credit blog instructions for class last Monday, I began to contemplate the idea of a "favorite" organic compound. My first thought was, who has a favorite organic compound? My second thought was interrupted by my recollection that the best television show of our time, Breaking Bad, was about to come on. And if anyone has a favorite organic compound, it would be Walter White, the main character of the show who happens to be a former chemistry teacher cooking  crystal methamphetamine under the pseudonym "Heisenberg", assumedly because he doesn't think you can pinpoint his exact location at any time. I've decided that because this show has given me a new respect for chemists, my favorite organic compound is methylamine. 

Methylamine has the formula of CH3NH2 and is the simplest primary amine. If you remember from class, amines are not very strong acids, and methylamine follows that rule as it is very basic. Methylamine is derived by reacting ammonia with methanol in the presence of a catalyst. This reaction produces dimethylamine and trimethylamine, which if you paid attention in class today you could draw. The compound looks like this:

The tetrahedral shape is derived from the sp3 hybridization of both N and C in this compound. The IUPAC name of the compound is aminomethane or methanamine. The reason it is so popular on Breaking Bad is because it is often used to produce methamphetamines, or as most folks know it - crystal meth. As such, methylamine is controlled by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), meaning that suppliers of this chemical have to comply with strict oversight by the DEA. 

If you have never seen the show - check out this clip of Jesse and Walt having a discussion that sounds like it should be happening in Sullivan 201. 

Walter White quote:
Basic information on cooking process:


  1. I really liked your usage of a television show to demonstrate how interesting organic molecules can be. It's really easy to take the various organic substances we use every day for granted, until you realize how very mad-scientist like some of these compounds are. Breaking Bad not only shows the relevancy of organic molecules, it is also thought provoking in concerns to using the knowledge of these compounds for good or evil (or the shades of gray in between). Intriguing post!

  2. I was totally thinking of the same topic last Sunday night. Great show. I love how you can get a little taste of chemistry every Sunday night now. Goes to show that not all organic molecules are good ones. Yeah science! Love it. Thanks for the included clip.