This simple procedure for the synthesis of creatine is a student favorite, especially for student athletes. The procedure demonstrates the preparation and isolation of a commonly known dietary supplement from sarcosine and cyanamide. Aqueous household ammonia (which can be further diluted) functions both as the catalyst and the solvent.
While the procedure itself works easily, it may be useful to spend additional time describing the green context of this reaction. Namely, this method involves an improvement over the standard industrial synthesis and it would be useful to provide sample data regarding the chemicals needed to produce, say, 1 kg of creatine by the standard method versus this greener method. Safety data regarding the chemicals and calculations for atom economy and e-factor would complete the green chemistry tutorial. This discussion becomes naturally more interesting to the participant since the method that the participant actually performed is being compared to a less green alternative.
It is suggested that the instructor pre-weigh the cyanamide into the reaction vessel. This would reduce time and log jams at balance stations, as well as minimize student contact with cyanamide, which is toxic. The participants will then simply add additional materials to the known mass of cyanamide.
Summary prepared July 2008 by Carl S. Lecher at Marian College.
Lecher, C. S. Synthesis of Creatine: A High School Procedure, School of Mathematics and Sciences, Marian College, 2008