This experiment involves analysis of a hypothetical analgesic (pain-killing) drug mixture
dubbed "Spartacetin." As with many over-the-counter painkillers, Spartacetin is a
mixture of aspirin and another analgesic organic compound (either acetanilide or
phenacetin) that you will identify by separation of the components and melting point
acetanilide phenacetin acetaminophen
You are already familiar with aspirin, the most widely used drug in the world.
Acetanilide and phenacetin were discovered earlier (1886 and 1887, respectively) than
aspirin (the remarkable properties of which were realized at the turn of the century).
Phenacetin was Bayer's first pharmaceutical product, created from waste materials left
over from its dye manufacturing. Acetanilide and phenacetin are both antipyretic and
analgesic, and owe their activity to metabolic breakdown to paracetamol, better known as
acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol). Note that acetaminophen, unlike
aspirin, is not anti-inflammatory, but it has the benefit of not irritating the stomach lining.
Acetaminophen has fewer side effects, and has largely replaced acetanilide and
phenacetin. (Ironically, Bayer first prepared phenacetin from acetaminophen on the
assumption that the phenolic OH group would irritate the stomach, so they wanted to
Bayer's next addition to the pharmaceutical industry was (rediscovered)
diacetylmorphine, prepared by Felix Hoffmann of aspirin fame within just two weeks of
the aspirin synthesis. They tested this new drug on their workers and found in made them
feel heroic, thus the name "heroin.". Believing they had a non-addictive alternative to
morphine, heroin was marketed for a variety of ills, including baby's colic.
A common mixture of drugs, no longer marketed in the US because of side effects and
possible carcinogenicity, is APC - aspirin, phenacetin, caffeine. Caffeine is often mixed
with aspirin. It is interesting that caffeine intensifies the analgesic properties of aspirin -
so if you take a plain aspirin tablet, chasing it with coffee, tea, or caffeinated soda should
In any case, our mixture, Spartacetin contains no caffeine (or heroin), but it does have, in
addition to aspirin and the "unknown" analgesic (either acetailide or phenacetin) two
other components: starch and tetraglyme. Starch is representative of binder compounds
used to keep the drug together in pill form, and tetraglyme (AKA tetraethyleneglcol
dimethyl ether) is an organic impurity in the questionable batch of Spartacetin you are
The best way to understand this experiment is to look at the flow diagram while reading
this section and also the procedure section. Just the basic design of the experiment will
The goal is to separate the components of Spartacetin and to analyze the unknown
component (acetanilide or phenacetin) by melting point analysis. The amounts of
components recovered will allow you to estimate the original composition of the
Spartacetin you were given. The key techniques are liquid-liquid extraction, melting
point analysis, and recrystallization (used to remove the tetraglyme impurity from the
crude unknown). You may wish to view the technique videos.
The following table of solubilities will be useful to understanding the design of the
We will first remove the starch by gravity filtration. The dichloromethane filtrate
contains the remaining components. Extracting with water would not help in separation
since aspirin and the unknown are both sparingly soluble in water. We will therefore do
employ the technique of "chemically active extraction," taking advantage of the fact that
our unknown is not acidic whereas aspirin is. So when we extract the dichloromethane
solution with aqueous sodium hydroxide, the aspirin is deprotonated and migrates to the
aqueous layer, leaving the unknown (and most of the tertaglyme behind in the
We isolate the aspirin as before, by acidifying, chilling, and vacuum filtration. The crude
unknown is isolated by evaporation of the (low boiling) dichloromethane. We
recrystallize the crude unknown from water to obtain the purified unknown.
Melting point and mixed melting point analysis is used to identify the unknown. We will
also do a melting point on a set aside sample of crude unknown as a way of observing the
efficiency of the purification process (the purified unknown would be expected to have a
higher and narrower melting point range than the crude material).
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