MERCAPTANS (Thio-alcohols), organic chemical compounds of the type R.SH (R = an alkyl group). The name is derived from mercurium captans, in allusion to the fact that these compounds react readily with mercuric oxide to form crystalline mercury derivatives. The mercaptans may be prepared by the action of the alkyl halides on an alcoholic solution of potassium hydrosulphide; by the reduction of the sulpho-chlorides, e.g. CjHsSOjCl (chlorides of sulphonic acids), by heating the salts of esters of sulphuric acid with potassium hydrosulphide, and by heating the alcohols with phosphorus pentasulphide. They are colourless liquids, which are insoluble in water and possess a characteristic offensive smell. On oxidation by nitric acid they yield sulphonic acids. They combine with aldehydes and ketones, with elimination of water and formation of mercaptals and mercaptols. (See SULPHONAL.) - Methyl mercaptan, CHj.SH, is a liquid which boils at 5-8 C. (752 mm.), and forms a crystalline hydrate with water. Ethyl mercaptan, CiHs.SH, is a colourless liquid which boils at 36-2 C. It is used commercially in the preparation of sulphonal (g.f.). The mercury salt, Hg(SCH 6 )2, crystallizes from alcohol in plates. When heated with alcohol to 190 C. it decomposes into mercury and ethyldisulphide.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)