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Beaking Bad Chemistry

The Chemistry Behind AMC's Breaking Bad TV Series

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Have you been wondering about the chemistry behind AMC's dramatic television series, Breaking Bad? Here's a look at the science of the show.

1. Making Colored Fire

Walt changes the colors of a flame by spraying it with chemicals.
AMC
In the pilot episode of Breaking Bad Walt White performs a chemistry demonstration in which he sprays chemicals onto a burner flame, causing it to change colors. Here's how you can do that demonstration yourself.

2. Making Crystal Meth

This is a photo of crystal meth that was confiscated by the US Drug Enforcement Agency.
US DEA
The premise of the series is that chemist and chemistry teacher Walt White is diagnosed with cancer and seeks to make enough money to support his family after his death so he turns to making crystal meth. Just how hard is it to make this drug? No that hard, but there are lots of reasons why you wouldn't want to mess with it.

3. Mercury Fulminate

Mercury fulminate is an explosive.
Tobias Maximilian Mittrach, Wikipedia Commons
Mercury fulminate sort of looks like crystal meth, but it is an explosive. Mercury fulminate is easy to prepare, but you won't find many chemists excited about mixing up a batch.

4. Hydrofluoric Acid

This is the hazard symbol indicating corrosive materials.
European Chemicals Bureau
Walt uses hydrofluoric acid to dissolve a body. This works, but if you are going to use hydrofluoric acid (presumably not for that purpose), there are certain things you need to know.

5. Elements in the Body

Photograph of graphite, one of the forms of elemental carbon.
U.S. Geological Survey
The third episode of Breaking Bad finds Walt pondering what makes a man. Is it the elements of which he is comprised? No, it's the choices he makes. Walt thinks back on his past and reviews a bit of biochemistry.

6. Cleaning Glassware

Beaker & Flask
Siede Preis, Getty Images
If you are going to use glassware for chemistry, it's probably a good idea to learn how to get it clean. Dirty glassware can lead to contamination. You wouldn't want that, would you?

7. Ricin Beans

Castor beans are the source of the poison called ricin, but also of castor oil and other products.
Anne Helmenstine
The first episode of Season 2 finds Walt making up a batch of ricin. Ricin is bad news, but you don't need to fear castor beans or accidental poisoning.

8. Blue Crystal Meth

Pure sugar crystals and pure crystal meth both are clear.
Jonathan Kantor, Getty Images
Walter White's trademark meth is blue rather than clear or white. The blue crystal meth used in Breaking Bad really is blue rock candy or sugar crystals. You can make blue crystals yourself, for snacking while watching the show.
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