Walter “Walt” White is undoubtedly America’s greatest TV chemist and there’s proof of that. Early in his life, he contributes to research that wins the Nobel Prize. He then starts Gray Matter Technologies, a future billion-dollar company he regrets leaving. His career tumbles, leading to him becoming a Chemistry teacher before he rises to become America’s biggest drug kingpin.
Walt’s vast knowledge enables him to acquire and use various complex chemical compounds in the series. These compounds aid him in cooking the highest quality of meth ever seen in Albuquerque. On a few occasions, Walt is forced to use the chemical compounds as weapons. He can’t totally be faulted for that since he does business with dangerous individuals.
At the start of the series, Walt uses the chemical compound pseudoephedrine as a key ingredient in cooking crystal meth. He is later forced to abandon it when it proves too difficult to acquire.
Feeling that his impressive work deserves greater financial rewards, Walt promises Tuco Salamanca—the head of the Juarez Cartel’s Albuquerque operations—that he will be supplying him a larger quantity of meth for more money. Days later, Jesse greets Walt with bad news—pseudoephedrine is becoming rare in the streets. Given the circumstances, Walt is forced to think of a different method.
Mercury (II) Fulminate
Also known as fulminated mercury, the chemical compound is first used by Walt while he is teaching at J.P. Wynne High School. He demonstrates its explosive capabilities to his chemistry students, much to their awe.
Walt uses fulminated mercury again when he storms Tuco Salamanca’s headquarters. Earlier, Jesse had taken a bag of meth to Tuco but instead of paying the $35,000 he was asked, he beat up the amateur cook and took the meth. An angry Walt shows up at Tuco’s base and blows it up with fulminated mercury, impressing the drug lord in the process.
In the infamous box cutter incident, Gus Fring’s henchman Victor tries to cook meth by himself in order to prove that Walt and Jesse are expendable. The duo had been on bad terms with the drug lord so they fear for their lives.
Walt hopes that Victor will forget that important aluminum amalgam component he normally uses in the process. Victor gets most of the process right, to Walt’s dismay. When Gus shows up later, Walt and Jesse think he is going to kill them but he slices Victor’s throat with a box cutter instead. Gus is angry that Victor overstepped his job description.
This is what Walt uses as his chief compound for making crystal meth later in the series when there is a pseudoephedrine shortage. Thanks to the new compound, Walt manages to make the stronger brand of meth known as “Blue Sky.”
Since methylamine is a commonly used industrial compound, Walt and Jesse resort to stealing it whenever they run out of it. At first, they steal from a warehouse before organizing one of the biggest train heists ever seen. Thanks to Lydia’s intel, the duo and their crew manage to siphon thousands of liters of methylamine from a train, enabling them to keep cooking for months.
Before the train robbery, Walt and Jesse go the risker route of stealing the compound from a warehouse. The major challenge? They have to destroy the warehouse lock.
Walt’s quick thinking sees him make the compound thermite and use it to cut through the lock. As usual, Jesse has no idea what that is so Walt gives him a history lesson. He narrates to Jesse how special commandos normally used thermite in World War II to destroy the popular metallic Nazi Gustav Gun. Walt’s plan works but the thermite also causes a fire and sets off alarms.
In season 1, Walt steals hydrofluoric acid from the school lab for non-cooking purposes. He intends to use it to dispose of the body of Krazy-8’s right-hand man and Jesse’s former partner Emiliano Koyama.
Walt instructs Jesse to pour it in a plastic container but he instead pours the acid into a bathtub. As a result, the acid dissolves through the bathtub and destroys the floor. Walt then gives Jesse a dressing down, letting him know that there is a reason why he insisted on a plastic container. Hydrofluoric acid doesn’t dissolve through plastic.
Hank once asks Walt to accompany him on a DEA raid. That’s how he spots and recalls Jesse, then decides to work with him. During the raid, Hank tells Walt that the wrong chemicals in a meth lab can form the toxic mustard gas. Walt corrects him, saying it’s called phosphine gas.
Later, when Krazy-8 and Emilio force Walt to cook meth inside his RV, he throws red phosphorous into hot water, resulting in the formation of phosphine gas. Walt flees and closes the door, trapping the two drug dealers inside. The gas kills Emilio and though he is able to live, it damages Krazy-8’s internal organs.
Seeking to produce higher quantities of crystal meth, Walt opts to switch cooking techniques from pseudo reduction to reductive amination. To do this, they need phenylacetic acid. In a scene inside Jesse’s basement, the duo is seen measuring phenylacetic acid through a 70 mm tube.
And when the cartel forces Gus to take Jesse to Mexico, the rookie cook is shocked to find out that the chemists there synthesize the acid themselves instead of buying it. Unable to synthesize the acid, the cartel’s chief chemist begins mocking him.
Needing four days to cook a batch of meth, Walt lies to Skyler that he is going to visit his mother. She drops him at the airport only for Jesse to show up with the RV minutes later and pick him up. They cook 42 pounds of meth, worth an approximated $672,000.
Karma somehow rears its ugly head when the RV refuses to start while the two are out in the desert. This happens because Jesse left the key in the ignition, causing the indicator light to drain the battery. They unsuccessfully try various options before Walt is hit with the idea of making an improvised battery using mercuric oxide.
Upon beginning work in the Superlab, Walt and Jesse quietly pour large jugs labeled diethyl ether into the reactors. Walt never explains what exactly the compound is used for.
The compound is commonly used as a solvent in both big and small labs around the world. It aids in liquid to liquid extractions, also referred to as solvent extractions.