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In Breaking Bad Walter White is known to be the master chef of blue meth, while yielding unheard of 99.9% purity. Is this possible or it is a big myth from the beginning?

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    This is a chemistry SE question – user24403 Sep 3 '15 at 1:42
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    @eYe Breaking Bad is, really, when all's said and done, fiction. – AJFaraday Sep 3 '15 at 14:19
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    I recall hearing the show's chemistry consultant speaking on NPR. She said that the chemistry that is described in the show is deliberately non plausible / not fully described - for obvious reasons. Its set up in such a way that in the right 'area' of chemistry, but couldn't be replicated by someone in the real world. – iandotkelly Sep 3 '15 at 14:37
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    Here is a link to the NPR article from 2011. – user9311 Sep 3 '15 at 14:59
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Yes, it's possible.

In theory, it's possible to produce a 100% pure sample of any substance; if you isolated and removed any molecules that were not those of your target chemical. The trick is that it's usually very impractical to do so, for various reasons. The cost of purifying chemicals rises sharply as the purity goes up, because you need more expensive and sensitive equipment, or more complex reactants, etc. If you want the details, you'd need to go to a chemistry textbook (or perhaps try the Chemistry Stack, though I doubt they're going to explain the process of making methamphetamine to you :)

Having said that, it's completely possible for someone to produce near-100% pure crystal meth, because it's happened:

That crystal meth was later seized by law enforcement, tested and found to be more than 99 percent pure — purer than the infamously high-quality meth cooked by Walter White, the fictional teacher-turned-drug-lord in the popular TV series "Breaking Bad" src

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    But 99.9% pure and blue? – daramarak Sep 3 '15 at 13:42
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    @daramarak: Nope, the crystals are white, no matter the purity. Of course you could make them blue, but that would be adding impurities, now would it? ;-) – DevSolar Sep 3 '15 at 14:07
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    @DevSolar I agree with you and I thought that it was I did in my answer. 100% pure anything is possible in theory -- physicists working at the single-molecule level could do it, but ridiculously expensive in practice. However, it's possible to get arbitrarily close, as shown by the news story I cited. If you want to try to reword the answer to be more clear I would be willing to accept such an edit. – KutuluMike Sep 3 '15 at 14:27
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    Ah... I see now where I misread your wording. Retracting my comment. – DevSolar Sep 3 '15 at 14:45
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Methamphetamine (aka Crystal Meth) has a specific chemical compound; C10H15N, as well as a known weight (149.2328 g/mol) and mass (149.120449 g/mol). Therefore, it can be produced with 99.9% purity if all other compounds are prevented from entering the formula, and the known weight and mass are achieved.

You may recall that Walt and Jesse used an extermination service as a cover-up at one point, and basically built a sterilized environment inside the houses. This was done to get the cook as close as possible to pure. If you had the time, resources and a controlled environment, you could most definitely produce a completely pure batch.

Source: http://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/methamphetamine#section=Top

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    @JonathonWisnoski, I'm not saying you're wrong necessarily. But what you're suggesting is more along the lines of "larger batches would get increasingly harder to keep 100% pure", not that it is (basically) impossible. And a related, secondary thought: say you had a perfect thousand C10H15N molecule batch, then you made more tiny batches and kept adding them together. Do you not have a large amount of "pure" C10H15N? – Broots Waymb Sep 2 '15 at 19:25
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    @DangerZone No at that point you could almost certainly never guarantee that the larger batch did not get a few molecules of impurity mixed in it. And I would not look at it that way. Bigger batches are likely easier to get better purity, but the trick comes at the difference between 99.99999% pure and 100% pure. At 100% pure you absolutely cannot use standard methods, you need to work with individual molecules, where it becomes impractical to deal with large volumes.. – Jonathon Sep 2 '15 at 20:02
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    Chemicals are usually sold from lab suppliers with a purity specification that goes by order of magnitude at the high end. You pay more for "more nines", as they say. The same compound can be available with "three nines" purity (ie: 99.9%), for example, and would be much more expensive for a bottle graded "five nines" (ie; 99.999%). You never get anything 100% pure - you just get more nines, and more nines get very expensive long before you get to 100%. – J... Sep 2 '15 at 22:04
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    @Brad: ""99.9%" and not "99.90000%"" Isn't that the same?! – Zaibis Sep 3 '15 at 7:17
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    @Zaibis no. Adding zeroes adds precision, while omitting them basically means "it could be any number". "99.9" might be "99.901" or "99.943" as far as you know. This is because we are talking about measured quantities, and not pure math (pun intended). – o0'. Sep 3 '15 at 12:12
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It is very easy for a skilled chemist to produce pure methamphetamine hydrochloride, a salt, because it crystalizes. A crystal will be very pure if grown properly. The challenge is to make sure the growth solution is pure to begin with by using pure components. If this is the case then the crystals will reject any foreign matter as they grown, making the result very pure, possibly with contaminants measured in parts per billion. The crystals must then be separated from the host liquor using proper washing techniques.

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    Actually a lot if molecules can be trapped in the crystals. The rejection you say is only favorable if energy allows it. – M.A.R. ಠ_ಠ Sep 15 '15 at 17:45
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It is easy to produce very pure methamphetamine if you are a good chemist.

The reason why it is notable that Walter White does so is because most meth cooks are rank amateurs using bad recipes, poor equipment and little care. Meth isn't particularly hard to make (if you have the equipment and the right ingredients). It is also easy to make badly using poor equipment, bad recipes, little skill and readily available sources (like the over the counter medicine pseudo ephedrine).

Walter White is a good chemist and has access to the right ingredients and the right equipment. And he cares about his recipe and his professional standards. So it is entirely unsurprising that he can make very pure meth.

BTW this has been discussed in chemistry.SE:

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