Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Harnessing the smell of Butyric acid

mommyrhino - 16-7-2013 at 15:34

I am in no way a chemistry major; frankly, as much as I enjoy it, I have never been very good at it. I am working on a project and I need to figure out how to harness the disgusting smell from butyric acid while reducing or eliminating the hazardous effects created from exposure. Does anyone have any ideas as to how this can be done or if it can be done? In the end, I want this to be an oil based liquid that creates a negative physiological reaction.

I swear my objective is not to harm or prank anyone. I am genuinely looking to do this for positive purposes.

mommyrhino - 16-7-2013 at 15:38

The smell itself is what I want to illicit the negative reaction. I don't want anyone to be physically harmed in any way.

chemcam - 16-7-2013 at 16:21

Perhaps you could distill rancid butter or maybe solvent extraction. I think milk or cheese would work as well if it has gone bad. Those would be the easiest ways. I know you could get it from GABA but that might require reagents you can't obtain.

What is your project? And why opposed to sulfur/senenium stinky compounds?

[Edited on 7-17-2013 by chemcam]

mommyrhino - 16-7-2013 at 18:42

Those may be viable as well. I thought of sulfur first but I know that anything that resembles vomit is likely (in most people) to make them gag. As much as I don't want anyone to take my idea, I really want to see this available for public sale so here it is. I have three kids and I almost always have them with me. For safety reasons, hypothetically speaking, if we were attacked, I have pepper spray but in using that I risk harming my children. Not to mention, as many police officers say, "Any weapon you carry has the potential to be used on you." Using a substance that would possibly induce an ill feeling or even vomiting via the olfactory and is not physically harmful would be a good proxy for pepper spray. Moreover, if someone used it on you, unless they could not smell, it's likely they couldn't handle the smell enough to continue trying to harm you. Does that make sense? What do you think?

eerae - 16-7-2013 at 18:58

I guess you would want to search for something with a high odor threshold/exposure limit e.g.:
Pyridine and diethylamine are pretty stinky, you could also look up putrescine and cadaverine, but I believe they are kinda toxic. In the end, I'm not sure you will find something as quickly incapacitating (by smell), yet as relatively nontoxic as good old pepper spray.

bfesser - 16-7-2013 at 19:04

So, basically, you could wet a cotton ball with <a href="" target="_blank">butanoic acid</a> <img src="../scipics/_wiki.png" /> and seal it into a pre-scored glass ampoule or whatever those <a href="" target="_blank">ammonia inhalants</a> <img src="../scipics/_wiki.png" /> are packaged in?

8968-04.jpg - 16kB

[edit: replaced broken image with best guess]

[Edited on 3.1.14 by bfesser]

chemcam - 16-7-2013 at 19:15

I am all for trying to invent things and thinking outside the box so please take this as constructive criticism. I don't think that smell alone would stop an attacker because of the adrenaline rush that he/she would get right before attacking. It sort of dulls all senses.

I have worked with all types of lachrymatory agents and many smelly compounds, the latter really has no effect other than foul odor. Now lachrymatory agents on the other hand are not really made to hurt people as much as to blind them by forcing the eyelids to shut.

In the end you really have to think, do I want to risk temporarily hurting my children to save our lives or do I want to risk the attacker not being phased and end up getting killed?
I was dreaming about what my emergency shelters defense mechanism could be and what I thought was pressurized chlorine. In disaster situation it would be easy to make from salt, cheaply and multiple ways as well. I know that is off topic a bit but you need to have something guaranteed to work.

Magpie - 16-7-2013 at 19:25

1. a pet skunk
2. a taser
3. a squirt gun filled with janitorial grade ammonia

mommyrhino - 16-7-2013 at 19:53

Thank you everyone. I enjoy constructive criticism and appreciate everyone's input. Constructive criticism provides different perspectives that can be invaluable so thank you. You all have far more experience in this field than I do and it means a lot that you are taking any kind of interest in this endeavor. :)

woelen - 18-7-2013 at 22:56

Be careful with this! Exposing people to certain chemicals is well beyond acceptable behaviour. Butyric acid is very smelly but not really toxic, but pyridine is much more toxic and seleno-compounds are extremely toxic and can introduce nasty long-term effects.

if you want a really bad smell which is non-toxic, then take a potato, not peeled, make this a little wet and put this in a closed jar and set aside in a warm place for a few weeks.

eidolonicaurum - 3-1-2014 at 03:33

That potato one does work. I have done it myself, and it does not smell good.......

Ozone - 3-1-2014 at 12:36

Butyric acid is vile, and has been used as a non-lethal "deterrent". The case which comes to mind is the "attack" of Delta Women's clinic many years ago.

The odor threshold is low, as is the toxicity (it is present in many foods, esp. cheeses), but is corrosive in pure form. The salt form, however, is odorless. I suppose you could neutralize the stuff with sodium hydroxide (or bicarbonate) and dry to obtain the salt. Changing a the pH of a solution of this salt (pH <4) will liberate the free stinky acid--in a concentration low enough to be safe (corrosivity-wise) and still barfalicious.

Perhaps a binary sprayer that combines a mixture of the salt and a buffer at pH <3 would be ideal?



DraconicAcid - 3-1-2014 at 13:27

Speaking of smells, I found this interesting:

ScienceHideout - 4-1-2014 at 18:41

That is a really cool concept, but I am really interested in the amount of first hand experience of who made it... I feel like a few are inaccurate.

To me, butanol smells more like wine than butan-2-ol, n-propanol doesn't smell like vodka at all, methanol doesn't have much of an odor, it is more of a feeling, and pentanols smell like bananas a lot!

Can anyone else testify for my observations?