Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Lump of Coal, Part 2

William Henry Perkin's research into coal tar derivatives, begun over his Easter holidays at the Royal College of Chemistry in London, also produced synthetic scents. Twisting the highly unstable molecules, Perkin developed perfumes for rose, violet, jasmine, musk, even the cancer causing coumarin, which smells like fresh-mown hay (previously used in cigarettes).

The volatility of Mauve also led to applications in explosives. The possibilities seemed endless, Perkin had opened the door to discoveries which changed the shape of our world. Other coal derivatives include:

Benzene:: a flammable solvent used perfume-making, dry cleaning, and gasoline production (de-greaser).

Creosote:: which is used to preserve wood exposed to the elements, and also as an ingredient in cough syrup.

Naphtha:: a flammable liquid spot remover and varnish solvent. Stoddard solvent, a special grade of Naphtha developed by Atlanta dry cleaner W.J. Stoddard in 1924, is used in laundry stain treatments and soaps such as Fels-Naphtha.

Paraffin:: which is not wax but an odorless wax-like substance derived from coal tar, solid at room temperature but easy to melt. It is molded into candles, poured atop jars of jam and jelly to seal them, and added to chocolate in candy making.

Toluene:: another flammable solvent used in seemingly everything: explosives [TNT is trinitrotoluene.], antiseptic, paints and stains, cosmetics, textile dye, even saccharine.

Unlocking the mysteries in a lump of coal brought science and industry to new levels and medical science would benefit too. ...

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