Preparation of Ethers

Preparation of Ether – Different Methods

There are various methods for the preparation of Ethers. Ethers are the organic compounds containing an oxygen atom bonded to two same or different alkyl or aryl groups. The general formula for ethers can be R-O-R, R-O-Ar or Ar-O-Ar, where R represents an alkyl group and Ar represents an aryl group.

Ethers are generally classified into two categories on the basis of substituent group attached: symmetrical ethers (when two identical groups are attached to the oxygen atom) and asymmetrical ethers (when two different groups are attached to the oxygen atom). With advancements in technologies, others are synthesized in industries in many ways.

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Some ways are explained below.

1. Preparation of Ethers by Dehydration of Alcohols

In the presence of protic acids (sulphuric acid), alcohols undergo dehydration to produce alkenes and ethers under different conditions. For example: in the presence of sulphuric acid, dehydration of ethanol at 443 K yields ethene whereas it yields ethoxyethane at 413 K. This is an ideal method of preparation through primary alcohols.

preparation of ethers

The preparation of ethers by dehydration of alcohol is a nucleophilic substitution reaction. The alcohol involved in the reaction plays two roles: one alcohol molecule acts as a substrate while the other acts as a nucleophile. It can follow either an SN1 or SN2 mechanism. The choice of the mechanism depends on whether the protonated alcohol loses water before or simultaneously upon the attack of a second alcohol molecule. Generally, the secondary and tertiary alcohols follow the SN1 mechanism while the primary alcohols follow the SN2 mechanism.

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Dehydration of Alcohols and The Mechanisms Behind it

2. Preparations of Ethers by Williamson Synthesis

Williamson’s synthesis is an important method for the preparation of symmetrical and asymmetrical ethers in laboratories. In this method, an alkyl halide is reacted with sodium alkoxide which leads to the formation of ether. The reaction generally follows the SN2 mechanism for primary alcohol.

preparation of ethers

As we know alkoxides are strong bases, and they can react with alkyl halides leading to elimination reactions. Williamson synthesis exhibits higher productivity in the case of primary alkyl halides. In the case of secondary alkyl halides, elimination competes with substitution whereas, we observe the formation of elimination products only in the case of tertiary alkyl halides.

Also, Read ⇒ Classification Of Alcohol, Phenol, and Ether

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs


Where are ethers used?

Ethers have wide use as commercial solvents and extractants for esters, gums, hydrocarbons, alkaloids, oils, resins, dyes, plastics, lacquers, and paints. They are used as dewaxing extractants for lubricating oils.

Where are ethers found?

Ether bonds are found in a wide variety of natural products mainly secondary metabolites including lipids, oxiranes, terpenoids, flavonoids, polyketides, and carbohydrate derivatives, to name some representative examples.

How do you identify an ether?

The most common way is to identify the alkyl groups on either side of the oxygen atom in alphabetical order, then write “ether.” For example, ethyl methyl ether is the ether that has an ethyl group and a methyl group on either side of the oxygen atom.

Which ether is more polar in nature?

The two lone pairs of electrons are present on oxygen and it has a bent structure. So, carbon-oxygen is polar in nature. The ethers exhibit a lower boiling point comparable to alcohols and phenols due to the absence of hydrogen bonding.

Are ethers reactive?

Ethers may react violently with strong oxidising agents. In other reactions, which typically involve the breaking of the carbon-oxygen bond, ethers are relatively unreactive. As a group, ethers are moderately toxic.

For detailed discussions on different methods of preparation of ethers, please visit BYJU’S – The Learning App.

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