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11.2: Physical Properties of Ethers

JoVE Core
Organic Chemistry

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Physical Properties of Ethers

11.2: Physical Properties of Ethers


An ether molecule has a net dipole moment due to the polarity of C–O bonds. Subsequently, boiling points of ethers are lower than those of alcohols of comparable molecular weight and slightly higher than those of hydrocarbons of comparable molecular weight (Table 1).

Ethers can act as hydrogen bond acceptors, making them more water-soluble than hydrocarbons, but since ethers cannot act as hydrogen bond donors, they are much less soluble in water than alcohols. Ethers are considered good solvents because of their ability to form hydrogen bonds with other molecules, combined with the London Dispersion forces between the alkyl groups bonded to oxygen. Ethers have high volatility and can quickly evaporate during the isolation of reaction products.

Table 1. Comparison of Boiling Points of Ethers, Alcohols, and Hydrocarbons

Name  Structural Formula Molecular weight (g/mol)  bp (°C)
Dimethyl ether Figure1 46 −25
Ethanol Figure1 46 78
Propane Figure1 44 −42
Diethyl ether Figure1 74 35
1-Butanol Figure1 74 118
Pentane Figure1 72 36


Ether Dipole Moment Polarity C-O Bonds Boiling Points Alcohols Hydrocarbons Water-soluble Hydrogen Bond Acceptors Hydrogen Bond Donors Solubility In Water Good Solvents London Dispersion Forces Alkyl Groups Volatility Evaporate Isolation Of Reaction Products

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