Iowa State University
INDEX A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

10-9-06

George Kraus and John Verkade

George Kraus, left, and John Verkade, University Professors of chemistry at Iowa State University, discovered that adding calcium nitrate to anhydrous ammonia tanks makes the corn fertilizer useless as an ingredient for methamphetamine.

Iowa State researchers recognized for work to inhibit meth production

by Mike Krapfl

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Iowa State University researchers George Kraus and John Verkade walked up the west steps of the Iowa Statehouse Monday, Oct. 9, to a round of applause.

The Iowa State chemists and their team of graduate students discovered a way to make anhydrous ammonia fertilizer useless as an ingredient for methamphetamine. All it takes is some calcium nitrate -- a common fertilizer compound -- added to the anhydrous ammonia and the yield of meth drops from 42 percent of total ingredient weight down to 2 percent or less.

The discovery was made about four years ago and has since been subject to rounds of testing by the state's Division of Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and other state leaders stood in front of an anhydrous ammonia tank bearing a "STOP METH" sign to announce the discovery, thank Congress for funding the research that led to it and say all testing had been successfully completed.

"The message today to all those interested in manufacturing meth is simply, 'Don't bother,'" Vilsack said.

Later, after hailing the chemists' discovery as "another advancement in the war against meth," U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin called Kraus and Verkade, both University Professors of chemistry, up the steps and in front of the cameras and microphones.

Verkade said the two had tested "dozens and dozens" of compounds before finding one that worked.

"This was an accidental discovery," he said. "That is really what research is all about."

Verkade later explained to reporters that the researchers had a lot of compounds they thought would inhibit meth production. But they didn't work.

"So we took the Edisonian approach," he said. "You try everything you can to make the light bulb work. And we finally found a compound that worked very well."

And, said Marvin Van Haaften, the director of the Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy, "We're thankful for that accident."

Calcium nitrate can now be added to anhydrous ammonia tanks on a voluntary basis. The state estimates that treating all of the state's 26,000 anhydrous ammonia tanks twice a year would cost ag retailers about $1.2 million annually.

-30-

Quick look

George Kraus and John Verkade, University Professors of chemistry at Iowa State, discovered a way to make anhydrous ammonia fertilizer useless as an ingredient for methamphetamine.

Quote

"This was an accidental discovery. That is really what research is all about."

John Verkade, University Professor of chemistry