Chemistry Experiment: Ether Synthesis by Distillation





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Published on Dec 20, 2009

Diethyl Ether is Synthesized by Catalytic Dehydration of Ethyl Alcohol. Sulfuric Acid is Used as the Catalyst in This Acid Base Reaction. Sulfuric Acid Forms the ester Ethyl Bisulphate and Generates Water. The Alcohol in the Reaction Bath remains Bound and Very Little Ether is Generated.

When Excess EtOH is Added to the Reaction Bath at 140C, Ether is Formed and the Sulfuric Acid Regenerated. Water Generated in the Reaction is Distilled over with the Ether. The Reaction Mixture Becomes Black Due to Oxidation/ Reduction Side Reactions.

The Reaction Bath Consists of: 20g of Clean Sand, 180mL EtOH, and 160mL of 96.4% H2S04. An Additional 750mL of Ethyl Alcohol is Slowly Added by way of an Addition Funnel.

The Reaction Bath is Kept at 135- 145C while the Still Head Temp is 55-85C.

The Second Distillation is Done with a Water Bath Due to the Extreme Flammability of Ether which has an Auto Ignition Temp of 170C. The Water Bath is Maintained Below 60C. The Ether Comes Over at a Remarkably Steady 35C Leaving the Excess Water Behind in the Calcium Chloride ~200g.

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