Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bunte Salts

I was reading a patent yesterday and ran into the term "Bunte salt". I wasn't familar with the term, and from the context, it wasn't apparent what the term meant. The IUPAC Gold Book quickly clarified what a Bunte salt is, and also why I shouldn't have felt bad for my ignorance - they have declared the term is obsolete and its use, as of 1997, is discouraged. [1]
That message however, is not getting out, at least to industrial practitioners [2]. The first US patent to use the term was issued in 1960 and 171 additional patents using the term have been issued in the 51 years since, an average of 3.4 patents per year. But over half of those patents - 96 - have been issued in the last 10 years. I would love to do a literature search to break down it's use over time, but don't have any great tools available, so the patent results will have to do, and it is quite apparent that industrial chemists are thumbing their nose at IUPAC nomenclature. (But what else is new?)

[1] What a wishy-washy position to take! It is obsolete, but its use is discouraged. Dictionaries and grammar guides have to make a choice. They can either be descriptive (describing how people use a language without making judgments about it's "correctness") or they can be prescriptive (describing the correct way that a language should be used). Here, IUPAC is doing both.

[2] I'm using the term industrial practitioners as the vast majority of patents are written by them. I do acknowledge the existence (the ever growing existence at that) of university patents, but they still are an extremely small percentage of what is applied for and issued.


Anonymous said...

As a practising chemist it is easy to understand what IUPAC are trying to do. How would you stop people using terms they have grown up with, use ethane rather than ethylene for example. Non systematic names just die out. How many people younger than 60 would have heard of muriatic acid or lunar caustic?

John said...

My experience with muriatic acid is that is more commonly used by the general public - you can buy it at the local Home Depot for instance.

Lunar caustic? I had to google that one.