Uses of Ethers

Ethers are organic compounds that contain an ether group with an oxygen atom that is connected to two alkyl or aryl groups.

These ethers can be classified into two categories, if the alkyl groups are the same on both sides of the oxygen atom then it is known as simple or symmetrical ether. In case if they are different, the ethers are known as mixed or unsymmetrical. Ether is an extremely flammable chemical and was one of the first anaesthetics. They are stored in a brown bottle which prevents the interaction of sunlight with the chemical. This further prevents any chemical reaction which might cause a fire. Ethers form a common linkage in carbohydrates and lignin.

List of Uses of Ethers

  • Ethers are organic compounds with a sweet smell at room temperature. They are colourless and evaporate quickly when exposed to air.
  • It is flammable and hence catches fire very easily and therefore should be handled with care.
  • Being flammable and volatile it is used in cold weather to start a diesel or petrol engine. It is also used as a refrigerant.
  • Ethers are used as an antiseptic in order to prevent infection when an injection is administered into the body.
  • A cotton ball is dipped in ether and the skin is disinfected before an injection is allowed to pierce the skin.
  • Diethyl ether is used as an anaesthetic in hospitals. Anaesthetics help in making people go to sleep or become unconscious during surgery.
  • The discovery of ether allowed physicians to use more refined techniques of surgery and medications. They got a better idea of human physiology.
  • But due to the flammable nature of ether, it has now been replaced with safer alternatives. Since diethyl ether can be used as an anaesthetic, it is an appealing recreational drug.
  • It is basically a controlled substance and can be inhaled by the users to induce euphoria and sedation. But overdose of diethyl ether can cause respiratory paralysis and also result in death.

This article gives a brief idea of the uses of ethers, for further details on this topic install BYJU’S – learning app.

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