Mustard Gas: Molecule That Changed the World

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Molecules that changed the world – Mustard Gas
Mustard gas (sulfur mustard) has a melting point of 218˚C and is therefore a liquid at room temperature. It is colourless when pure although can be seen to be yellow/brown when impure, it is very toxic [2]. The first recorded synthesis of mustard gas was in 1822 by a French chemist, César-Mansuète Despretz[1] who synthesised it by the following reaction: [3]
Above, bis (2-chloroethyl) sulfide (Mustard gas) is produced from the electrophilic addition of sulfur dichloride to ethane. Its properties were first defined by Fredrick Gurthie who in his paper ‘on some derivatives of olefines’[4] as “smelling like mustard, tasting like garlic, and causing blisters after contact with the skin”. Historically, mustard Gas had found no significant use until World War I where interest spread in the development of new chemical weapons [5]. Wilhelm Steinkopf, a German chemist; working under the invitation of Fritz Haber, was responsible for developing a large scale method of mustard gas production [6]. He did this using a process developed by an English chemist; Hans Thatcher Clarke, from the Mayer method, where ethanol is reacted with hypochlorous acid and then sodium sulfide. The product of which is heated with Hydrochloric acid [7][12]. This method proved most useful to the german army as it used 2-chloroethanol, which was readily available due to its large scale use in the chemical dye industry [2]. In 1916 Steinkopf had developed a

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