We all know that skunks are capable of producing an incredibly bad smelling strong odour. This odour can be difficult to get off clothing and can lead to skin irritation and even temporary blindness.

By http://www.birdphotos.com (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

But what is this smell? Well, our friend sulfur is guilty of being heavily involved in making this bad smell.

Skunk spray is made of a group of sulfur containing compounds called thiols or mercaptans. Thiols have an S-H bond:

Image kindly reproduced according to the licence at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Thiol_group.svg

Skunk spray is actually a mixture of low molecular mass thiols (including methyl and butyl thiols) – the human nose can detect these chemicals in concentrations as low as 10 parts per billion!

The thiol bond is less polar than say, the similar O-H bond which therefore means that the chemical finds it easier to evaporate and turn into the gaseous phase which enhances its effectiveness.

This article was sourced using two wikipedia articles: