The processes used for the barbiturate Peaceful Pill synthesis have been known for many years. Barbiturates are derivatives of barbituric acid. This was first synthesized by Adolph von Bayer in 1864, by condensing malonic acid with urea.
An easier method makes use of the di-ethyl ester of malonic acid (di-ethyl malonate) which reacts with urea in the presence of a catalyst sodium ethoxide; a base is formed by dissolving metallic sodium in absolute alcohol (ethanol).
Di-Ethyl Malonate + Urea + (Sodium Ethoxide) = Barbituric Acid This synthesis is depicted above.
The reaction takes place under reflux for a number of hours at 1100
C. Crystals of barbituric acid are obtained by acidifying the
reaction mixture, then filtering and cooling the filtrate. Barbituric acid, however, has no physiological activity. The process needs to be taken further to develop a barbiturate that can peacefully end life. The sedative, hypnotic, and anaesthetic properties of the barbiturates are determined by the characteristics of two additional side-arms (or side-chains) attached to the barbituric acid molecule.