"Blue Sky" (also known as Big Blue, Blue Magic, or Fring's Blue) is the street name which has been coined for the notoriously potent and 99.1% chemically pure crystal methamphetamine manufactured by Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. Since its introduction to the market, there have been a few temporary accomplices who have helped Jesse and Walter cook with the blue meth formula: Brandon "Badger" Mayhew, Gale Boetticher, and Todd Alquist.
The name comes from the distinctive light blue coloration of the meth crystals, a result of the chemical formula Walt devised to get around sales restrictions on pseudoephedrine.
After experiences in the meth trade with Krazy-8 and Emilio, Walter and Jesse eventually decide to expand their drug operation by selling their product to Tuco Salamanca, a powerful but psychopathic drug distributor. The two begin to expand their operations by stealing a large drum of methylamine, thereby allowing them to produce large quantities of meth for Tuco. The methylamine allows them to bypass the difficulty of acquiring pseudoephedrine, and the new method gives their product a blue color while continuing to be highly pure and chemically potent.
Following Tuco's death, Walt and Jesse decide to move their business into new territory. The blue meth was thus distributed solely in Albuquerque by Jesse's street dealers, but more problems arise as their enterprise expands with dealers working for them. Later, Walt becomes worried when he sees a bright white patch within the generally dark hues on the latest PET/CT scan of his lungs. With only $16,000 remaining of the meth money after the numerous setbacks, he and Jesse spend several days in the desert cooking 38 pounds of meth to sell off before Walt dies.
With Combo dead and their remaining dealers backing out, Walt and Jesse turn to Saul for help. Saul uses his connections to arrange a meeting at a fast food restaurant with Gustavo Fring, a discreet, cautious, yet successful drug distributor. Gus reluctantly offers to buy Walt's product for $1.2 million and offers him only one hour to deliver the drugs.
Gustavo Fring's empire
- Main article: Gus' Drug Empire
Later, Walt is initially hesitant to take up Gus on a lucrative offer to continue cooking meth in a high-tech "superlab" beneath an industrial laundromat, but later discovers that Jesse, out of rehab, has cooked a batch of the blue meth himself using Walt's techniques; Walt, furious, accepts Gus' offer to cook at least 200 pounds a week. At this time, Walter cooks with Gale Boetticher, a lab assistant provided by Gus. The blue meth spread across the Southwest due to the efforts of Fring, whose Los Pollos Hermanos franchise was used to distribute the meth to the surrounding states and establish a drug empire in the region.
The blue meth made its way south of the border into the country of Mexico, attracting the attention of the local drug cartels in the area, particularly, the Juárez Cartel. When Gus successfully blocks the Cartel's drug trade, he offers Walt a larger sum to continue to cook, an offer not extended to Jesse. Jesse skims a small portion of the meth to sell on his own, an action that both Gus and Walt are aware of but do not discuss. After agreeing to an ultimatum given by the cartel, Gus takes Mike and Jesse down with him to Mexico, where they have Jesse teach the cartel scientists (lead by Benicio Fuentes) how to cook the blue meth. Gus returns from Mexico and his relationship with Walt unravels, causing Walt to murder Gus and put an end to Gus's distribution of the blue meth.
Walt's Drug Empire
- Main article: Walt's Drug Empire
Because Skyler used the money Walt earned from Gus' operation to pay off Ted Beneke's IRS debt, Walt believes he has no choice but to start cooking meth again to earn back the money he lost. Mike Ehrmantraut joins Walter and Jesse in their new three-way partnership to begin distributing meth again, while not trusting Lydia Rodarte-Quayle, an executive with Madrigal Electromotive GmbH, the parent company of Gus' Los Pollos Hermanos. They then begin plans for meth manufacturing but Saul Goodman cannot locate satisfactory sites, save for one — a pest control company known as Vamonos Pest. Walter and Jesse use the business's fumigation tent on random houses as a mobile laboratory.
Meanwhile, the methylamine flow is disrupted, forcing Walter, Jesse, and Mike to rob a train carrying a large shipment. As the DEA begins to track Mike, and with the recent death of the child, both Jesse and Mike design a permanent exit for themselves from the business. They plan to sell their shares of the methylamine for $5 million each to Declan, a major regional meth producer and distributor. Walt derails Jesse and Mike's scheme when he refuses to sell his share of the methylamine and uses his Heisenberg persona's infamy to cut a distribution deal with Declan and negotiate the $5 million severance for Mike. Jesse is determined to leave the business, irrespective of his financial cut, so Walter enlists Todd as his assistant cook.
In exchange for her safety, Lydia arranges for Walt's product to be shipped to the Czech Republic using Madrigal's more obscure branches. Over the next few months, this nets Walt an extraordinary amount of money - so much that, after some pleading from Skyler, he finally decides to retire, dropping off $5 million he owed to Jesse at his door.
Methamphetamine is chiral, and thus occurs in two enantiomers: dextrorotary and levorotary. Dextromethamphetamine (d-methamphetamine) is a stronger psychostimulant, whereas levomethamphetamine (l-methamphetamine) is CNS-active with weaker (approx. one-tenth) effects on striatal dopamine and shorter psychodynamic effects. At high doses, both enantiomers of methamphetamine can induce stereotypy and psychosis, but l-methamphetamine is less desired by drug abusers because of its weaker pharmacodynamic profile.
The synthesis of methamphetamine is typically done through the reduction of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, using either hydroiodic acid and red phosphorus or lithium metal dissolved in anhydrous ammonia. This method - the reduction of pseudoephedrine - produces only the d-methamphetamine isomer, which is preferred by drug dealers over l-methamphetamine. This method is portrayed twice in the Pilot episode: first when Walt's DEA agent brother in law, Hank Schrader, and his DEA pals raid Jessie's lab while Walt rides along, and then again during the Winnebago cook scene.
- Walter: "We're not going to need pseudoephedrine. We're going to make phenylacetone in a tube furnace, then we're going to use reductive amination to yield methamphetamine. Four pounds."
- Jesse: "So no pseudo?"
- Walter: "No pseudo."
- Jesse: "So you do have a plan! Yeah Mr. White! Yeah science!"
- — Walt reveals to Jesse their new process for making meth.[src]
By "A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal", obtaining pseudoephedrine for the large-scale production that Walt desires becomes an issue. To circumvent this, Walt decides on an alternate synthesis — reductive amination of phenyl-2-propanone (pehnylacetone or P2P) with methylamine. Obtaining methylamine required for this reaction — which is on the DEA watch list, a list of chemicals the DEA has classified as having use in drug manufacture — becomes a major plot line throughout the seasons. While working in the superlab, the methylamine is supplied by Golden Moth Chemical. Walt obtains his P2P from phenylacetic acid and acetic anhydride. The P2P is created in a tube furnace charged with a thorium oxide catalyst. The reductive amination of P2P takes place in the presence of aluminum amalgam.
From the 1960s to the mid-1980s, reductive amination was the method of choice for clandestine methamphetamine production. Enterprising biker gangs who dominated the trade at this time mostly ran these operations. (The slang term “crank” for methamphetamine allegedly originated from Biker’s transporting meth in the crankshafts of their bikes.) Reductive amination is less common today. Reference to this occurs in “Seven Thirty-Seven” when Hank shows his surprise after being shown the video of the methylamine heist. He says, “P2P––they’re cooking old school biker meth.”
Purity and chirality
The blue meth produced by Walter is famous for being highly pure and chemically potent. However, in reality, the methamphetamine produced by the P2P method is racemic (both enantiomers are present), and thus consists partly of the less-desired l-methamphetamine isomer. D-methamphetamine induces classic stimulant effects, whereas l-methamphetamine is only a weak stimulant but an excellent decongestant, which is sold over-the-counter in Vicks inhalers. In other words, if you make methamphetamine from P2P by reductive amination, you end up with an undesirable product that is now half-drug and half-decongestant.
However, despite using reductive amination, Walt implies his product is enantiomerically pure in “Box Cutter”. He asks Victor, “If our reduction is not stereospecific, then how can our product be enantiomerically pure?” In other words, Walt is asking "If our reduction generates both enantiomers, how does our product contain only one?" Unfortunately, we don’t know if Walt is just bluffing to try and save his and Jessie’s life. If Walt’s product is nearly 100% pure d-methamphetamine, we can assume he devised some some technique to make the the P2P process chirally selective, even though the reductive is usually not stereospecific. Walter’s end customers and the DEA seem impressed with the potency of his product, and Walt himself seems almost unnaturally proud of his formula - both of which seem to imply that he has thought of something clever to resolve the issue.
Walt's methamphetamine becomes blue when he switches from pseudoephedrine reduction to reductive amination. The blue color is apparently a plot device, introduced by the show's writers to make Walt's product visually identifiable. Although blue methamphetamine, sometimes called "smurf dope," exists in the real world, 100% pure methamphetamine would appear as colorless/white crystals. The blue color might result from impurities formed during the reaction, but despite its light blue coloration, Walt's product is highly pure. The episode "Box Cutter" opens with flashback to Gale giddily setting up equipment in the laundromat super-lab. He tells Gus that he has the sample he asked him to analyze saying it is “quite good.” He then lets us know it was Walt’s product: “I can not as of yet account for the blue color.” Gale goes on to guarantee Gus a purity of 96 percent for his own product. Walt’s sample was 99 percent pure and “maybe even a touch beyond that.”
- Walter White can cook a 99.1% pure meth
- Jesse Pinkman can cook a 96.2% pure meth
- Gale Boetticher can cook a 96% pure meth
- Todd Alquist can cook a 74% pure meth
- Declan's Cook can cook a 68% pure meth
- Blue Sky makes a brief cameo appearance in the AMC series The Walking Dead, in the episode titled "Bloodletting". It can briefly be seen in Merle Dixon's drug stash which contains crystal meth among other drugs.
- Blue Sky props consist of crystallized sugar and are essentially pieces of blue rock candy manufactured by the candy store "The Candy Lady" of Albuquerque.
- "Blue Sky" is also the name of a soda company founded in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It remains a popular soda in New Mexico.