The Proper Chemistry: ‘Pure’ versus ‘artificial’ chemical compounds

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Caffeine could be synthesized within the laboratory from easy molecules which might be sourced from petroleum, and this model can have primarily no C-14. Nonetheless, caffeine from espresso beans can have some, and its presence could be detected both by measuring beta ray emission or via mass spectrometry, an instrumental method that may detect small adjustments in atomic mass.

Commercially, caffeine could be obtained both from the decaffeination of espresso beans or via chemical synthesis. Generally, synthesis is cheaper, and many of the caffeine that’s added to power drinks is produced on an enormous scale in China. As soon as produced, it’s the similar as another caffeine. Nicely, nearly. Whereas the distinction in C-14 content material is simply of educational curiosity, there could also be a distinction in residues of processing chemical compounds. In any chemical response the product will comprise traces of the reagents utilized in its synthesis. There have been questions raised about high quality management in some Chinese language amenities. Nonetheless, additionally it is potential that within the case of caffeine obtained by decaffeinating espresso beans, traces of extraction solvents stay.

Principally although, in relation to the consumption of caffeinated drinks, the query that needs to be requested shouldn’t be whether or not the caffeine is man-made or natural, however quite what influence the world’s most generally consumed psychoactive substance could have on well being.

Joe Schwarcz is director of McGill College’s Workplace for Science & Society ( He hosts The Dr. Joe Present on CJAD Radio 800 AM each Sunday from three to four p.m.

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