Diethyl ether is an organic compound in the ether class. It is also widely known under its IUPAC name ethoxyethane, as well as under multiple synonyms, such as dether, ethyl ether, ethyl oxide, 3-oxapentane, diethyl oxide, solvent ether and sulfuric ether. The chemical formula of diethyl ether is C4H10O, its CAS number is 60-29-7. The compound is produced by the acid ether synthesis, in course of which any strong acid, usually sulfuric acid, is mixed with ethanol.
Ethoxyethane is a colorless liquid with pungent sweetish odor. It is highly volatile and flammable. This chemical has limited solubility in water, though it is miscible in most organic solvents. The boiling point of diethyl ether is 34.6 °C, its melting point is −116.3 °C, and its density is 0.7134 g /cm3. The compound is stable, but sensitive to light and air.
Due to its property to form explosive peroxides and other potential hazards, diethyl ether should be handled and stored with extreme care. Its vapor can be ignited by flame, as well as by heat source or even static electricity. Besides, it poses inhalation hazard and may cause irritation of eyes and skin. Container with the chemical should be stored tightly closed in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area and while working with the solvent, personal protective equipment is a must.
Diethyl ether has multiple uses. It was formerly applied in pharmaceutical formulations, e.g. for making Hoffman’s Drops and as recreational drug. Nowadays the chemical is used:
- as organic solvent in laboratories for liquid-liquid extraction;
- as starting fluid in combination with petroleum distillation;
- as an anesthetic in some developing countries due to its low cost and high therapeutic index.
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