Synthesis of Chloroacetone

WARNING: Synthesis of this compound uses highly corrosive and toxic chemicals. Chlorine gas is produced which is highly toxic. Chloroacetone irritates the eyes, nose and throat. Do this synthesis outside or in a well ventilated area. A gas mask or respirator is recommended.

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Chloroacetone is a liquid compound created by the chlorination of acidified acetone. It was used as a chemical weapon during WWI before being replaced by more efficient tear gasses such as the modern CS gas commonly used by the police today. Firstly you will need to make a chlorine gas generator. To do this, charge an Erlenmeyer flask with 100 mL of household sodium hypochlorite bleach. Next add around 50 mL of concentrated hydrochloric acid. What is happening here is the bleach and acid react to form chlorine gas, sodium chloride and water as per the following equation.

NaClO + HCL –> H2O + NaCl + Cl2

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Next take 30 mL of acetone in a measuring cylinder and place the end of a plastic tube into the acetone with the other end in the stoppered flask. What we are doing here is bubbling chlorine gas through the acetone. The acetone will heat up and turn pale green as it saturates with chlorine. A quick shake will result in the colour changing to a pale yellow brown colour. Addition of sodium carbonate will neutralise any remaining HCl from the reaction. Upon prolonged exposure to light the chloroacetone will darken as it breaks down.

C3H6O + Cl2 –> C3H5ClO + HCl

Blowing air across the surface of the liquid will produce white vapours which are extremely unpleasant upon exposure to ones eyes and nose. My eyes burned for around 5 minutes after exposing myself to the vapour. This I don’t recommend. Adding calcium carbonate to the chloroacetone before storage in an amber coloured bottle will allow for it to be stored without degrading over time.

Next week: How to create Sarin ;). Yeah right

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