Ethers List


Ethers constitute a class of compounds characterized by an ether functional group, typically denoted by the general formula R-O-R', wherein R and R' represent alkyl or aryl groups that may be identical (Fig. 1) or distinct. Unlike water, ethers feature an oxygen atom bonded to two carbon atoms instead of hydrogen atoms. This molecular structure imbues ethers with versatile properties that find extensive utility across numerous industries. They are commonly used as solvents in chemical reactions, pharmaceuticals, and perfumes due to their ability to dissolve a wide range of substances. Additionally, ethers serve as an important component in fuel additives, enhancing combustion efficiency and reducing engine knocking. In the medical field, ethers are utilized as anesthetics to induce unconsciousness during surgical procedures.

Alfa Chemistry stands as a leading supplier of chemicals offering an extensive array of organic compounds, including a diverse selection of high-quality ethers tailored to meet the varied application requirements of customers.

Structure of diethyl ether.Fig. 1 Structure of diethyl ether.

Classification of Ethers

Ethers are categorized in two ways, including according to whether the ether bond forms a ring and the type of group attached to the oxygen atom.

  • According to whether the ether bond forms a ring, ethers can be divided into straight-chain ethers and cyclic ethers (Fig. 2). Molecules whose ether bonds do not form a ring are called straight-chain ethers. Molecules with ether bonds forming a ring are called cyclic ethers, where the oxygen atom is located in the ring. For example, ethylene oxide is a cyclic ether with a three-membered ring.
  • According to the group attached to the oxygen atom, ethers can be divided into simple ethers and mixed ethers. Those with the same two alkyl groups connected by oxygen atoms are called simple ethers or symmetrical ethers, such as dimethyl ether. And those with two different alkyl groups are called mixed ethers or asymmetric ethers, such as ethyl methyl ether.

Structures of straight-chain and cycle ethers.Fig. 2 Structures of straight-chain and cycle ethers.

Representative Reactions

Ethers, versatile organic compounds, participate in various chemical reactions and these reactions highlight the diverse reactivity of ethers in both synthetic organic chemistry and functional group transformations. Here are some representative reactions of ethers.

  • Cleavage Reaction: Ethers can undergo cleavage reactions, typically under acidic or basic conditions, leading to the formation of alcohols and alkyl halides. For instance, in the presence of a strong acid, such as HBr or HI, ethers can undergo acid-catalyzed cleavage to yield alkyl halides and alcohols.
  • Cyclo-opening Addition Reaction: Ethylene oxide is the smallest cyclic ethers, and there is a considerable ring tension within its molecule. The ring tension coupled with the strong electron absorption induction of oxygen atoms make ethylene oxide has a very high chemical activity, which is sensitive to many reagents and is very easy to occur a series of cyclo-opening addition reactions to prepare alcohol compounds.
  • Oxidation Reaction: Although the saturated alkyl ether is stable to the oxidizer, a slow oxidation reaction will occur when placed in the air, resulting in the formation of ether peroxide. This is an autooxidation that occurs on the α-C-H bond of the ether to produce hydroperoxide ether which can self-polymerize into highly explosive peroxide-ether polymers.


Ethers find extensive applications across diverse industries due to their versatile properties. Below is a list of some examples.

chemical industry

In the chemical industry, ethers are commonly used as solvents in chemical reactions due to their ability to dissolve a wide range of organic and inorganic compounds. For example, diethyl ether and tetrahydrofuran (THF) are widely utilized solvents in organic synthesis. Ethers are also employed in extraction processes to separate compounds from mixtures. For instance, diethyl ether is often used in liquid-liquid extraction to isolate organic compounds from aqueous solutions.

pharmaceutical industry

In the pharmaceutical industry, ethers such as diethyl ether and isoflurane are used as inhalation anesthetics to induce and maintain unconsciousness during surgical procedures. Besides, ethers are utilized in the formulation of pharmaceutical drugs. For example, methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) is used as a solvent in the manufacture of some pharmaceutical products.

other industries

In other industries, ethers can be employed as solvents in the production of perfumes and fragrances, aiding in the dissolution and blending of fragrance compounds. For instance, diethyl ether is used as a solvent in perfume manufacturing. Ethers can also serve as important components in fuel additives, enhancing combustion efficiency and reducing engine knocking. Ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE) are examples of ethers used as oxygenates in gasoline to improve octane ratings and reduce emissions.

Alfa Chemistry provides various ethers to our customers from grams to kilograms. We can also customize the synthesis according to customers' requirements. Please feel free to contact us for more information.

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