- A family of organic compounds with the general formula R–O–R',
where R and R' are hydrocarbon radicals.
Examples are dimethyl ether (CH3OCH3) and diethyl
ether (C2H5OC2H5), the latter
being known simply as "ether" (see below).
Ethers are volatile, highly flammable substances made by catalytic dehydration
of alcohols, catalytic hydration of
alkenes, or by reacting an alkyl
halide with a sodium alkoxide. They are chemically fairly inert,
though they are split by hydrogen halides,
and form explosive peroxides on standing in air. See also thioether.
- A volatile, highly flammable liquid, (C2H5)2O,
with a sickly smell, partially miscible with water. It is derived from
distillation of ethanol with sulfuric
acid, and widely used in industry (as a solvent)
and as an anesthetic. Also known
as diethyl ether, ethyl ether, and
ethoxyethane. It is made from ethanol
by dehydration using concentrated sulfuric acid, or by reacting it with
a chloroethane (ethyl chloride) and sodium metal (Williamson's synthesis).
Molecular weight 74.1, melting point -116.2°C, boiling point 34.5°C.
- An all-pervading, infinitely elastic, massless medium formerly postulated
by late 19th-century physicists in order to explain how light
and other forms of electromagnetic
waves could be propagated through otherwise empty space. Light was
thus thought of as a mechanical wave motion in the ether. The whole
theory was discredited following the failure of the Michelson-Morley
experiment to detect any motion of the Earth relative to the supposed