Ethers can be defined as a class or a group of organic compounds comprising an oxygen atom, which is bonded to two same or different alkyl or aryl groups. The general formula for ethers is R-O-R, where R represents an alkyl group. Ethers can be generally classified into two categories, based on their attached substituent groups.
- Symmetrical ethers – A two identical groups attached to either side of an oxygen atom.
- Asymmetrical ethers – A two different groups attached to either side of an oxygen atom.
Earlier, most of the compounds with same structural formula were known by different names depending on the regions where they were synthesized. This naming system was very trivial since it raised a lot of confusion. Finally, a common naming system enlisting standard rules was set up by IUPAC (The International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry) for the naming of compounds. This method of naming is IUPAC naming or IUPAC nomenclature. Nomenclature of ethers revolves around two standard ways of naming:
- Common nomenclature
- IUPAC nomenclature
Rules underlying the nomenclature of ethers:
- Common nomenclature of ethers follows the rule of naming different alkyl/aryl groups attached to the oxygen atom on either side in alphabetical order and finally adding the word ether to it. For example, CH3OC6H5 is named as Methyl phenyl ether.
- Ethers in which the oxygen atoms are attached to the same group on either side are named with the help of Greek numerical prefixes such as “di”. These ethers are named by adding “di” before the alkyl/aryl groups attached to the oxygen atom. For example, CH3OCH3 is named as dimethyl ether.
- IUPAC nomenclature of ethers follows different guidelines. According to IUPAC naming, substituent group containing more carbon atoms is chosen as parent hydrocarbon. The other substituent group attached to the oxygen atom is named with a prefix “oxy”. For example, CH3OC2H5 is named as 1-methoxy ethane.
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