Magic Acid?

Seriously Aldrich? Magic? Seriously?





1. Of, relating to, or invoking the supernatural: “stubborn unlaid ghost/That breaks his magic chains at curfew time” (John Milton).
2. Possessing distinctive qualities that produce unaccountable or baffling effects.

Why not “the mysterious Grubbs catalyst”, “the black art of C18” or “the superstitious pH indicator” ?


  1. Acme_Rocket

    Aldrich was not the first to assign the name “Magic Acid” to that chemical formula. That compound has been referred to as magic acid for over a decade. If my memory serves me correctly, a company first developed the acid and gave it that name.

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  3. Geoff

    From…”Superacid chemistry: second edition”

    “The name Magic Acid originated in Olah’s laboratory at Case Western Reserve University in the winter of 1966. The HSO3F–SbF5 mixture was extensively used in his group to generate stable carbocations. J.Lukas, a German postdoctoral fellow, put a small piece of Christmas candle leftover from a lab party into the acid system and found that it dissolved readily. He then ran an
    1H NMR spectrum of the solution. To everybody’s amazement, he obtained a sharp spectrum of the tert-butyl cation. The long-chain paraffin, of which the candle is made, had obviously undergone extensive cleavage and isomerization to the more stable
    tertiary ion. It impressed Lukas and others in the laboratory so much that they started to nickname the acid system Magic Acid. The name stuck and soon others started to use it too. It is now a registered trade name and has found its way into the chemical literature.”

    …so it was George Olah’s postdoc who started it off.

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