12 Difference Between Ester And Ether (With Examples)

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Esters

The term ester was coined by the German chemist Leopold Gmelin in1848. An ester is an organic compound where the hydrogen in the compound’s carboxyl group is replaced with a hydrocarbon group. Esters are derived from carboxylic acids and in alcohols.

Esters are partially soluble in water because they can act as hydrogen bond acceptors to form hydrogen bonds. More importantly, esters are less polar than alcohols, more polar than ethers and more volatile than carboxylic acids. Because of their volatility, esters may be differentiated from each other using gas chromatography.

Example of esters includes Ethyl acetate (ethyl ethanoate), ethyl propanoate, propyl methanoate, propyl ethanoate and methyl butanoate.

Importance of Esters

  • Low molecular weight esters are used in flavors, perfumes and cosmetics.
  • Phosphoesters form part of the DNA.
  • Nitrate esters are used as explosives.

Ethers

An ether is an organic compound that contains an ether group-an oxygen atom connected to two alkyl or aryl groups. Given that ether molecules are unable to form hydrogen bonds with each other, they have relatively low boiling points.  Also ethers are highly volatile, flammable and have no flavor. Examples of organic compounds which are ether include, polyethylene glycol, Anisole, Dioxane, ethylene oxide and diisopropyl ether.

Importance of Ethers

  • Ethers act as excellent organic solvents.
  • Lower ethers act as anesthetics.
  • Used in cocaine production to diesel engine fluid.

Key Difference

Meaning

An ester is a chemical compound derived from an acid (organic or inorganic) in which at least one-OH (hydroxyl) group is replaced by an –O-(alkyl) group. In contrast, An ether is any a class of organic compounds that contain an oxygen atom bonded to two alkyl groups.

Laboratory Preparation

Esters are prepared in a laboratory using a process known as esterification. They can also be produced through alcoholysis of acyl chlorides and acid anhydrides. On the other hand, Ethers are produced in laboratory using several methods among which include dehydration of alcohols and the Williamson ether synthesis.

Stability

Ethers are very stable compounds while esters are relatively less stable.

Reactivity

Ethers have relatively a low chemical reactivity; they do not readily react with dilute acids, bases, active metals, reducing agents and oxidizing agents. Esters on the other hand, are highly reactive, they readily react with acids, bases, active metals, oxidizing agents and reducing agents.

Boiling point

Ethers have relatively low boiling points due to their inability to form hydrogen bonds with each other. Esters on the other hand, have a relative higher boiling point because ester molecules can engage in hydrogen bonding with each other.

Solubility

Due to the fact that water is polar in nature and ether is non-polar. Ethers are slightly soluble in water because the presence of oxygen in ethers which interact with hydrogen in water to produce hydrogen bonding to make it slightly soluble in water. On the other hand, small esters are fairly soluble in water but solubility falls with chain length. The reason for the solubility is that although esters cannot hydrogen bond with themselves, but they can hydrogen bond with water molecules.                   

Symmetrical Structures

It is not possible for esters to have symmetrical structures due to the presence of carbonyl group. Conversely, if both alkyl groups on either side of the oxygen atom in ether group are similar, and therefore the structure is symmetrical.

Derived from

Esters are derived from carboxylic acids whereas, ethers are derived from alcohols.

Structure

Ester compound has a carbon-carbonyl-oxygen bond whereas the ether compound has a carbon-oxygen-carbon bond.

Uses

Example of ethers such as diethyl ether has been used as an anesthetic; it is also used in cocaine production to diesel engine fluid. Conversely, Esters with characteristic odors are used in synthetic flavors, perfumes and cosmetics. Certain volatile esters are used as solvents for lacquers, paints and vanish. Also, Nitrate esters are commonly used as explosives.

Examples

Examples of Esters include ethyl ethanoate, ethyl propanoate, propyl methanoate, propyl ethanoate and methyl butanoate. On the other hand, examples of ethers include diethyl ether, methyl ethyl ether diphenyl ether, polyethylene glycol, Anisole, Dioxane, ethylene oxide and diisopropyl ether.

Understanding the Differences between Ester and Ether in Tabular Form

Points Of Differences Ester Ether
Meaning An ester is a chemical compound derived from an acid (organic or inorganic) in which at least one-OH (hydroxyl) group is replaced by an –O-(alkyl) group. An ether is any a class of organic compounds that contain an oxygen atom bonded to two alkyl groups.
Laboratory Preparation Esters are prepared in a laboratory using a process known as esterification. They can also be produced through alcoholysis of acyl chlorides and acid anhydrides. Ethers are produced in laboratory using several methods among which include dehydration of alcohols and the Williamson ether synthesis.  
Stability Relatively less stability. Ethers are very stable compounds.
Reactivity Esters on the other hand, are highly reactive, they readily react with acids, bases, active metals, oxidizing agents and reducing agents.   Ethers have relatively a low chemical reactivity; they do not readily react with dilute acids, bases, active metals, reducing agents and oxidizing agents.
Boiling Point Have a relative higher boiling point because ester molecules can engage in hydrogen bonding with each other.   Have relatively low boiling points due to their inability to form hydrogen bonds with each other.
Symmetrical Structures It is not possible for esters to have symmetrical structures due to the presence of carbonyl group. Both alkyl groups on either side of the oxygen atom in an ether group are similar, and therefore the structure is symmetrical.
Derived From Esters are derived from carboxylic acids.   Ethers are derived from alcohols.  
Structure Ester compound has a carbon-carbonyl-oxygen bond. The ether compound has a carbon-oxygen-carbon bond.  
Uses Esters with characteristic odors are used in synthetic flavors, perfumes and cosmetics. Also, certain volatile esters are used as solvents for lacquers, paints and vanish.   Example of ethers such as diethyl ether has been used as an anesthetic; it is also used in cocaine production to diesel engine fluid.
Examples Examples of Esters include ethyl ethanoate, ethyl propanoate, propyl methanoate, propyl ethanoate and methyl butanoate. Examples of ethers include diethyl ether, methyl ethyl ether and diphenyl ether.  

Summary

An ester is a chemical compound derived from an acid (organic or inorganic) in which at least one-OH (hydroxyl) group is replaced by an –O-(alkyl) group. In contrast, An ether is any a class of organic compounds that contain an oxygen atom bonded to two alkyl groups.