Ethers are organic compounds which 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 same on both the sides of 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 anesthetics. 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 fire. Ethers form common linkage in carbohydrates and lignin.
Uses of ethers
Ethers are organic compounds with sweet smell at room temperature. They are colorless 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 antiseptic in order to prevent infection when an injection is administered into the body. A cotton ball is dipped in ether and skin is disinfected before an injection is allowed to pierce the skin.
Diethyl ether is used as an anesthetic in hospitals. Anesthetics help in making people go to sleep or become unconscious during a surgery. 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 flammable nature of ether, it has now been replaced with safer alternatives. Since diethyl ether can be used as an anesthetic, 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 on the uses of ethers, for further details on this topic install Byju’s the learning app.