What is Dry Ether? Mode of Preparation, Properties & Applications
Diethyl Ether is a historically significant compound with a profound impact on the medical field, particularly in anesthesiology. It belongs to a family of compounds known as Ethers containing the ethyl group.
Likewise, when Diethyl Ether is completely dried of all water content, it is then referred to as anhydrous Ether or simply dry Ether.
It was in the year 1842 that it was first medically used on a patient undergoing neck surgery. However, today Diethyl Ether finds numerous applications across different sectors. Most probably, you may come across it as a drying agent or in a gas tank.
Anhydrous Form of Diethyl Ether or Dry Ether
Diethyl Ether is devoid of all water content to make it anhydrous, also known as dry Ether. To achieve anhydrous Ether, non-reactive dry agents are used. For a long time, sulphuric acid was the most preferred drying agent to obtain dry Ether. The use of sulphuric acid has another advantage – it removes peroxides from Diethyl Ether which is a dangerous component and risks explosions if not removed properly.
Diethyl Ether – Description And Properties
For physical appearance, Ether is a clear liquid with a pungent and burning taste. Moreover, it’s a highly volatile liquid and highly inflammable. Vapors of Diethyl Ether are heavier than air, stratifying below and also catching fire easily. Diethyl Ether is quite a good solvent and can easily dissolve fats, sulfur, phosphorus, etc. It has a low boiling point, and it’s lighter than water but forms vapors denser than air.
Preparation of Dry Ether (Diethyl Ether)
On the industrial scale, Diethyl Ether is prepared through the hydration of ethanol. The process is carried out in the presence of sulphuric acid – a drying agent.
Although the prevalent method for producing anhydrous Diethyl Ether or dry Ether is through the dehydration of ethyl alcohol using alumina, it can also be produced using the vapor phase hydration of ethylene.
Applications of Dry Ether (Diethyl Ether)
Diethyl Ether is extensively used across industries as a solvent ( chemical laboratories, grease, explosives, pharmaceuticals, etc.). Historically Diethyl Ether was a commonly used anesthetic for surgical procedures such as operations.
Moreover, Diethyl Ether forms a highly explosive mixture in combination with air, particularly oxygen. When exposed to air for a long time, Diethyl Ether produces low volatile peroxides. Once they evaporate, they leave behind a highly explosive substance. To prevent this from happening, the industrial process of formation of Diethyl Ether also adds a small amount of water and ethyl alcohol. It is then stored in specially treated containers.
However, for dry Ether, completely devoid of ethyl alcohol or water, sodium salt of N, N Diethyldithiocarbamic acid is added, which acts as an antioxidant and prevents peroxides’ formation.