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Differentiation of Illicit Phenyl-2-Propanone Synthesized from Phenylacetic Acid with Acetic Anhydride Versus Lead (II) Acetate

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 37 Issue: 1 Dated: (January 1992) Pages: 301-322
A C Allen; M L Stevenson; S M Nakamura; R A Ely
Date Published
22 pages
The illicit synthesis of phenyl-2-propanone (P2P) in clandestine drug laboratories from phenylacetic acid and acetic anhydride in the presence of sodium acetate or pyridine (Route 1A) or from the dry distillation of phenylacetic acid and lead (II) acetate (Route 1B) was studied.
The two routes were investigated using capillary gas chromatography combined with vapor phase Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and electron impact mass spectrometry detection and using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to identify 21 reaction byproducts. All samples were examined in the split mode, and reaction mechanisms for both routes leading to the target compound and various byproducts were evaluated. The investigation established numerous reaction byproducts in common between the two routes. Four route-specific compounds are identified to help the forensic chemist differentiate between the two routes. For Route 1A, route-specific compounds are the E- and Z-enol acetates of P2P; for Route 1B, route-specific compounds are bibenzyl and diphenylmethane. 54 references, 3 tables, and 15 figures (Author abstract modified)