Ethanethiol
Overview
 
Ethanethiol is an organic compound
Organic compound
An organic compound is any member of a large class of gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical compounds whose molecules contain carbon. For historical reasons discussed below, a few types of carbon-containing compounds such as carbides, carbonates, simple oxides of carbon, and cyanides, as well as the...

 with the formula CH3CH2SH. It consists of an ethyl group, CH3CH2, attached to a thiol
Thiol
In organic chemistry, a thiol is an organosulfur compound that contains a carbon-bonded sulfhydryl group...

 group, SH. Its structure parallels that of ethanol
Ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

, but with S
Sulfur
Sulfur or sulphur is the chemical element with atomic number 16. In the periodic table it is represented by the symbol S. It is an abundant, multivalent non-metal. Under normal conditions, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow...

 instead of O
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

. The presence of S leads to many different properties, most notably the infamous odour of EtSH. Ethanethiol is also more volatile
Volatility (chemistry)
In chemistry and physics, volatility is the tendency of a substance to vaporize. Volatility is directly related to a substance's vapor pressure. At a given temperature, a substance with higher vapor pressure vaporizes more readily than a substance with a lower vapor pressure.The term is primarily...

 than ethanol due to a diminished ability to engage in hydrogen bonding.
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Ethanethiol is an organic compound
Organic compound
An organic compound is any member of a large class of gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical compounds whose molecules contain carbon. For historical reasons discussed below, a few types of carbon-containing compounds such as carbides, carbonates, simple oxides of carbon, and cyanides, as well as the...

 with the formula CH3CH2SH. It consists of an ethyl group, CH3CH2, attached to a thiol
Thiol
In organic chemistry, a thiol is an organosulfur compound that contains a carbon-bonded sulfhydryl group...

 group, SH. Its structure parallels that of ethanol
Ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

, but with S
Sulfur
Sulfur or sulphur is the chemical element with atomic number 16. In the periodic table it is represented by the symbol S. It is an abundant, multivalent non-metal. Under normal conditions, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow...

 instead of O
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

. The presence of S leads to many different properties, most notably the infamous odour of EtSH. Ethanethiol is also more volatile
Volatility (chemistry)
In chemistry and physics, volatility is the tendency of a substance to vaporize. Volatility is directly related to a substance's vapor pressure. At a given temperature, a substance with higher vapor pressure vaporizes more readily than a substance with a lower vapor pressure.The term is primarily...

 than ethanol due to a diminished ability to engage in hydrogen bonding. Ethanethiol is toxic. It occurs naturally as a minor component of petroleum
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

, and may be added to otherwise odourless gas products such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to help warn of gas leaks. At these concentrations, ethanethiol is not harmful.

Odor

Ethanethiol has a strongly disagreeable odor
Odor
An odor or odour is caused by one or more volatilized chemical compounds, generally at a very low concentration, that humans or other animals perceive by the sense of olfaction. Odors are also commonly called scents, which can refer to both pleasant and unpleasant odors...

 that humans can detect in minute concentrations. The threshold for human detection is as low as one part in 2.8 billion parts of air. Its odour resembles that of leek
Leek
The leek, Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum , also sometimes known as Allium porrum, is a vegetable which belongs, along with the onion and garlic, to family Amaryllidaceae, subfamily Allioideae...

s or onion
Onion
The onion , also known as the bulb onion, common onion and garden onion, is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium. The genus Allium also contains a number of other species variously referred to as onions and cultivated for food, such as the Japanese bunching onion The onion...

s. Ethanethiol is intentionally added to butane
Butane
Butane is a gas with the formula C4H10 that is an alkane with four carbon atoms. The term may refer to any of two structural isomers, or to a mixture of them: in the IUPAC nomenclature, however, butane refers only to the unbranched n-butane isomer; the other one being called "methylpropane" or...

 and propane
Propane
Propane is a three-carbon alkane with the molecular formula , normally a gas, but compressible to a transportable liquid. A by-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining, it is commonly used as a fuel for engines, oxy-gas torches, barbecues, portable stoves, and residential central...

 (see: LPG) to impart an easily noticed smell to these odourless fuels, that otherwise pose the threat of fire
Fire
Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products. Slower oxidative processes like rusting or digestion are not included by this definition....

 or explosion
Explosion
An explosion is a rapid increase in volume and release of energy in an extreme manner, usually with the generation of high temperatures and the release of gases. An explosion creates a shock wave. If the shock wave is a supersonic detonation, then the source of the blast is called a "high explosive"...

.

According to the 2000 edition of the Guinness Book Of World Records, ethanethiol is the "smelliest substance" in existence. Other more specialised chemicals were probably not examined, however. Most volatile thiols are comparably offensive. Thiols can be oxidized to ethyl sulfonic acid, which does not have a smell, using bleach
Bleach
Bleach refers to a number of chemicals that remove color, whiten, or disinfect, often via oxidation. Common chemical bleaches include household chlorine bleach , lye, oxygen bleach , and bleaching powder...

 or related strong oxidants. Weaker oxidants, such as ferric oxide, will cause the formation of diethyl disulfide.

Reactions

Ethanethiol is a valued reagent
Reagent
A reagent is a "substance or compound that is added to a system in order to bring about a chemical reaction, or added to see if a reaction occurs." Although the terms reactant and reagent are often used interchangeably, a reactant is less specifically a "substance that is consumed in the course of...

 in organic synthesis
Organic synthesis
Organic synthesis is a special branch of chemical synthesis and is concerned with the construction of organic compounds via organic reactions. Organic molecules can often contain a higher level of complexity compared to purely inorganic compounds, so the synthesis of organic compounds has...

. In the presence of sodium hydroxide, it forms the powerful nucleophile
Nucleophile
A nucleophile is a species that donates an electron-pair to an electrophile to form a chemical bond in a reaction. All molecules or ions with a free pair of electrons can act as nucleophiles. Because nucleophiles donate electrons, they are by definition Lewis bases.Nucleophilic describes the...

 NaSEt. The salt can also be generated quantitatively by reaction with sodium hydride
Sodium hydride
Sodium hydride is the chemical compound with the empirical formula NaH. It is primarily used as a strong base in organic synthesis. NaH is representative of the saline hydrides, meaning it is a salt-like hydride, composed of Na+ and H− ions, in contrast to the more molecular hydrides such as...

.

Mild oxidation of EtSH gives the disulfide
Disulfide
In chemistry, a disulfide usually refers to the structural unit composed of a linked pair of sulfur atoms. Disulfide usually refer to a chemical compound that contains a disulfide bond, such as diphenyl disulfide, C6H5S-SC6H5....

, diethyl disulfide:
2 EtSH + H2O2
Hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is the simplest peroxide and an oxidizer. Hydrogen peroxide is a clear liquid, slightly more viscous than water. In dilute solution, it appears colorless. With its oxidizing properties, hydrogen peroxide is often used as a bleach or cleaning agent...

 → EtS-SEt + 2 H2O

Like other thiols, it behaves comparably to hydrogen sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide is the chemical compound with the formula . It is a colorless, very poisonous, flammable gas with the characteristic foul odor of expired eggs perceptible at concentrations as low as 0.00047 parts per million...

. For example, it binds, concomitant with deprotonation to "soft" transition metal cations, such as Hg2+, Cu+, and Ni2+ to give polymeric thiolato complexes, Hg(SEt)2, CuSEt, and Ni(SEt)2, respectively.

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