DEET (Diethyl-meta-toluamide)

DEET: It's the most common insect repellant! 

DEET also known as N, N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, or diethyltoluamide, is the most common active ingredient in insect repellents. DEET was developed by the U.S. Army in 1946 to protect soldiers in insect-infested areas. Insect repellents containing DEET have been used by the general public in the United States since 1957. It’s a colorless oil that can be applied to the skin or to clothing and provides protection against mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, chiggers, leeches, and many biting insects.  Its odor is unpleasant to pests and counteracts body odors that attract them. Products with DEET as an ingredient is available to the public in a variety of lotions, liquids, and sprays. These formulations have between 5- 99% of DEET which can be applied directly to the skin. The next time you look for an insect repellent, check to see if it has DEET as an active ingredient!  

What does DEET look like in Chemistry?

Deet molecule

Let’s Get Building!

Using your Student Molecular Set from Duluth Labs then let’s create DEET You’ll need:

  • 12 Carbon Atoms
    • 17 Hydrogen atoms
    • 1 Nitrogen Atom
    • 1 Oxygen Atom
      • 17 Small connectors (compact small bonds for hydrogen)
      • 10 Medium Connectors
      • 8 Long connectors
      • Molecular Tool (for Disassembly) 

      Put aside all the atoms and connectors needed.

      Let’s Start Building With Our Arene Portion (Ring A).

      Note: We build this portion in a clockwise direction, starting with Carbon 1.


      Let’s start!


      • 1

        1. Get a carbon atom (Carbon 1) then attach another carbon (Carbon 2) to it using a medium connector. Add a Hydrogen atom to Carbon 2 using a small connector.

      • 2

        2. Get another carbon atom (Carbon 3) and attach it to Carbon 2 using 2 long connectors. Place a Hydrogen atom to this carbon 3 using a small connector. 

      • 3

        3. Using a medium connector, attach another carbon (Carbon 4) to Carbon 3. Then using a small connector, attach a hydrogen atom to Carbon 4. 

      • 4

        4. Afterwards, get another carbon atom (Carbon 5) and attach this to Carbon 4 using 2 long connectors. 

      • 5

        5. Using a medium connector, attach a carbon atom (Carbon 11) to Carbon 5. Then use 3 short connectors to attach 3 hydrogen atoms to Carbon 5. This is a methyl group. 

      • 6

        6. Then get another carbon atom (Carbon 7) and use a medium connector to attach this to Carbon 5. Using a short connector, attach a hydrogen atom to Carbon 7.

      • 7

        7. Finally use 2 long connectors to join Carbon 7 to Carbon 1. 

      • 8

        Yay! We've just built our Arene (Ring A) Portion! 

      Let’s continue building!

      Note: Let’s now build what we will call the Amide (Ring B) portion of the DEET molecule. We build this portion starting with Carbon 8.


      • 1

        1. Get one carbon atom (Carbon 8) then attach this to Carbon 1 (of Ring A) using a medium connector. Then, place an Oxygen atom on carbon 8 using a long connector.

      • 2

        2. Get a Nitrogen atom and using a medium connector attach this to another carbon atom (Carbon 8)

      • 3

        3. Get another Carbon atom (Carbon 12) then attach this to the Nitrogen atom using one medium connector, then add two Hydrogen atoms to Carbon 12.  

      • 4

        4. Afterwards, use a medium connector to attach a carbon atom (Carbon 11) to Carbon 12. Then use 3 small connectors to attach 3 Hydrogen atoms to Carbon 11. 

      • 5

        5. Then, using a medium connector, attach another carbon atom (Carbon 9) to the Nitrogen Atom. Then use 2 small connectors and attach 2 hydrogen atoms to Carbon 9. 

      • 6

        6. Finally, use a medium connector and attach the last carbon atom (Carbon 10) to Carbon 9. The use 3 small connectors to attach 3 hydrogen atoms to this carbon.   

      • Yay! We've just built our Amide (Ring B)Portion!

      Great work! Now we have our newly-built DEET molecule

      Feel free to show us how your DEET turned out!

      Comment and share pictures below!

      Tune in next week for another Molecule of the week!

      See you then xoxo :)

      Duluth Labs

      Afton Direct LLC

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