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Ester and ether are two common organic compounds that have some major differences. The main difference between ester and ether is the spatial arrangement of their atoms. They are formed through the esterification and etherification process respectively. Just one double bond between oxygen and adjoining carbon in their molecular structure makes them two different compounds performing different functions.

If you want to learn more about these compounds and their various uses in research, please read on Ester Vs Ether!


In old ages, ether was used as an anesthetic agent during surgical treatment. Later on, in 1846-1848 (during Mexican American War) physicians began to use it as an anesthetic agent in the battleground with the permission of the US Army. Now a day, its uses are altered.

Ester is a chemical compound that can be made up of inorganic and organic acids. They are derivatives of alcohol, which essentially have a hydroxyl group (-OH) combined with the alkyl groups (-O-) like fatty acid chains.

Esters comprise vegetable oils, animal fats, as well as lipid groups-they, react less than carboxylic acids (which form esterification reactions). These compounds transfer nerve stimuli to animals while they also help transmit hormones around the body for regulation purposes!

Prominent biochemical esters included fatty acids and glycerides. Some of the esters are highly soluble in water as they can form hydrogen bonds by acting as hydrogen-bond acceptors, which is why we use them to make pheromones and scents for essential oils. Have a look at the article, “degree of polymerization” which is essential to read if you are looking into polymers.   

Preparation of Esters

3 Common Ester Preparation methods include;

  1. Dehydration of Williamson’s Ether, which is a chemical process in obtaining an ester by dehydrating the ether.
  2. Esterification – Process of making Ether by combining RCOOH and ROH Organic Compounds.
  3. Alcoholysis – Ester preparation can be carried out by alcoholysis of acid anhydrides and acyl chlorides
2- Esterification - Ester Vs ether

The Naming of Esters

Their name is derived from parent acids and parent alcohols; the latter may be inorganic or organic. Mostly they are produced from the simplest carboxylic acids and their common name style is called trivial names ends with the suffix “ate” for example propionate and acetate etc.

Mostly they have IUPAC confirmed names. Using systematic naming their names end with the suffix “oate”. For example, butyl acetate, ethyl propanoate, ethyl ethanoate, methyl butanoate, and propyl ethanoate.

Inorganic Esters

Esters that are derived from inorganic acids like phosphoric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric, and boric acid produce phosphate, sulfate ester, nitrate esters, and borates are called inorganic esters. They are unstable and exist as tautomers from diverse esters. Many hundreds of known alkaloids of all metalloids and metals could be classified as esters of hypothetical acids.

4- Inorganic Ester


Esters belongs to the uncommon ester class are the ortho-esters having formula RC(OR)3. For example, Triethyl-orthoformate (HC(OC2H5)3, is not synthesized from ortho-formic acid but its name is derived from ethanol and ortho-formic acid.

For characterization, the most common analysis regarding the polymers is FTIR and Thermal analysis.

5- Organic Ester

The Structural Arrangement of Ester

The structural organization of ester is a little bit different from the ether. Two oxygen atoms form bonds with two carbon atoms. Look into recommended articles related to ARAMID which is commercially used in a range of applications from defense to industrial ones.

3- General Formula for Ester explained in article - Differences between ester and ether

Applications of Ester

  • If we look at uses of ester, then we come to know that DNA structure is formed by the association of Phospho-ester molecules.
  • However, nitrate esters have explosive properties and are used as fiery material.
  • In the arena of trade, they came under the group of synthetic lubricants.
  • Esters have a sweet and pleasant fragrance. They are widely used in perfumes, synthetic flavors, inks, nail paint removers, biodiesels as well as in the pharmaceutical industry.
  • This drug is restricted to buy and to use for the common man in most of the western countries. This is used by people for recreation and intoxication purposes.
  • Similarly, it also has applications in the medical field. Some medicines of cold, cough, are made up of it. Like that used in the manufacturing of toothpaste, mouthwashes, and ointments.
6- Applications of Ester (1)


An organic compound containing oxygen atom bonding with two alkyl or aryl groups, also containing two loan pairs on it. The structure of ether is similar to water and alcohol. The difference between alcohols and ether is that in ether both hydrogen atoms of water are replaced by aryl or alkyl group, however, in alcohols, only one hydrogen atom is replaced with an alkyl group.

They can also be defined as the derivatives of alcohols, as the OH group of alcohols in ether is replaced by carbon or alkyl group. This change makes ethers less reactive. Less reactivity is also because they do not have any carbonyl group. Here is the article recommended for you illustrating polyimide and its commercial uses.

Ethers at room temperature are volatile, colorless but a pleasant-smelling liquid. As compared to alcohol ethers have a less boiling point, they are also less reactive or unreactive which makes them a good solvent for perfumes, dyes, resins, fats, gums, oils, and other hydrocarbons. But they can show slow reactivity with active metals, oxidizing and reducing agents, bases, and dilute acids.

7- Colorless ether in contrast to colored ester

As they are volatile but are stable at room temperature. Vapors of some others are also used as miticides, fumigants, and insecticides for soil. They are slightly soluble in water due to the presence of oxygen having two loan pairs, providing them the capability for the formation of hydrogen bonding. It is less reactive and an excellent solvent.

The Naming of Ethers

If we discuss common names of ethers, they are derived based on the alkyl group attached to the oxygen with the prefix ether.  For example, dimethyl ether di-ethyl ether. In general, then can be written as “alkyloxy-alkanes”. Currently, they are named based on the alphabetical order of alkyl groups attached to the oxygen atom. For example, t-butyl methyl ether.

In older practices of naming was based on the size of the alkyl group attached to the oxygen. For example, methyl t- butyl ethers. If the same alkyl group is attached on both sides of oxygen, as both ethyl groups are attached to the oxygen then they are named diethyl ether in older practices.

In systematic naming i.e., IUPAC more complex groups are used as the root name of ethers, with a smaller group and oxygen atom named as alkoxy substituents. For example, methoxy ethane is used for methyl ethyl ether, phenoxy-benzene for diphenyl ether, and ethoxyethane for diethyl ethers. In other words, systematic naming deals with fictional groups.

10- IUPAC Name of ether which is totally different from ester

Physical Properties of Ethers

Due to the lack of strongly polar hydroxyl of group alcohols, they cannot make hydrogen bonding with each other. but they have free bond pair on oxygen atoms. Therefore, they have the ability to make hydrogen bonding with other molecules like amines and alcohols, i.e., they can make N-H or O-H bonds.

This ability to form hydrogen bonding with other molecules gives ethers a good solvent that can dissolve in it a variety of organic compounds and also a large variety of inorganic compounds also can be soluble in this solvent.

Due to the absence of the ability to make hydrogen bonding with each other, they have a relatively low boiling point. But for those that have higher molecular weight have a higher boiling point as compared to those that have light molecular weight. In comparison to Ether, the Boiling point of organic esters are higher.

The Structural Arrangement of Ether

In the structural arrangement of ether, one oxygen forms a bond with two carbon atoms to complete its molecular structure. So in the spatial arrangement of ester vs ether atoms, there is just a little bit of difference.

8- Structural formula of ether


The nonbonding electron pair gives then a unique property to enhance the bond formation of many reagents and solutions. For example, the Grignard reagent cannot be prepared unless loan pair of electrons is shared to make bonding with magnesium atom.

Another complexity is experienced during the preparation of borane reagent for the formation of alcohols. Pure borane is a toxic gas as a diborane (B2H6) and unstable as BH3. Ether forms a stable borane complex.

9- Gignard Reagent formation and ether

Applications of Ether

Ester vs ether molecules is used for a wide range of chemical reactions and extractions.

  • Ether is used for a volatile ignition for gasoline and diesel engine in the cold season. Moreover, dimethyl ether is used as a refrigerant and propellant spray.
  • Methyl t-butyl ether is used to add in gasoline that boosts the octane number which helps in the reduction of nitrogen-based pollutants in the exhaust.
  • And other ether named ethylene glycol used as plasticizers and solvents.
  • Ethers also play an important role in pharmacology and medicine. Specially ether is used as an anesthetic agent. For example, ethyl ether is used as the first surgical anesthesia.
  •  A powerful pain-killing drug named codeine is a methyl ether of morphine. Ether is replaced by other anesthetics like halothane and nitrous oxide because of highly inflammable property of them. So, ester vs ether providing lead growth in medical and automobile fields.
11- Applications of Ether (1)

Ester Vs Ether – Major Differences

 Ester Ether
Chemical FormulaEster needs only one carbon to attach with an oxygen atom.Ether contains two carbon atoms at both sides of the Oxygen atom
Functional GroupA chemical compound derivative of acids having at least one hydroxyl group attached to the oxygen.They belong to any organic class having oxygen bonded to two alkyl groups on both sides.
Preparation MethodThey can be produced in the laboratory by esterification. They can also be prepared by using alcoholysis of acid anhydrides and acyl chloridesthey can be prepared in the laboratory by the dehydration of alcohols and other several methods.
Chemical StabilityThey is less stableThey are strongly stable
ReactivityThey have a highly reactive property and are readily reactive with reducing and oxidizing agents, basses, dilute acids, and reactive metals.They are less reactive and do not readily react with reducing and oxidizing agents, bases, and dilute acids or active metals
Boiling Point They have a high boiling point due to the presence of hydrogen bonding between each other.They have a less boiling point however they may high boiling point due to high molecular mass.
DervativesThey are derivatives of carboxylic acidsThey are derivatives of alcohols
ApplicationsThey are used as synthetic perfumes, flavors, cosmetics due to their characteristic odors. They are used as solvents for paints and vanish due to their volatile property.They are used in the medical field as an anesthetic and also used as a pain-killing drug like cocaine. They have also been used in diesel and gasoline engine fuels to increase engine efficiency.
ExamplesThey present in ethyl propanoate, ethyl ethanoate, methyl butanoate, and propyl ethanoate.The example of them includes diphenyl ether, diethyl ether, and methyl ethyl ethers.