An organic solvent; also a drug. Ether was used as an anesthetic for many years; lighter doses cause feelings of drunkenness for 30 minutes or so. Closely related chemically to standard drinking alcohol.

See also: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, ether binge.

Note: Do not drink ether. You will probably die. You also shouldn't inhale the vapors - drugs are bad.

Editor's note: This is dangerous. Do not try this

a very simple recipe for some di-ethyl ether:

1. purchase some starter fluid at your local Auto Barn. make sure it contains di-ethyl ether and petroleum distillates only.

2. spray all the fluid into a ziploc bag.

3. add an equal amount of clean, preferably filtered water to the bag.

4. seal bag and shake vigorously for five minutes.

5. allow your concoction to settle and seperate. this happens pretty quickly.

6. the water will have settled to the bottom, along with the petroleum distillates contained in the starter fluid.

7. snip a tiny hole in the corner of the bag, allowing the water layer to drain out.

8. once the water layer is completely gone, begin draining the di-ethyl ether layer into a cup or similar storage device.

9. for the anal retentive: add more water and repeat the purification process if you feel you may not have removed all the petroleum distillates.

10. store your ether in an amber-colored or darker glass bottle which can seal tightly. i find a boiled-out vanilla extract bottle works great.

11. to use, pour desired amount onto a rag. place rag over face and take deep breaths.

12. stumble around all stupid-like.

as far as i know, there's not much documentation of ether or its synthesis anywhere on the web. this is how i was taught to make it. suggestions and corrections are more than welcome.

warning: inhaling any fumes is inherently dangerous and i make no guarantee that you won't die from this. use your better judgment before trying this out. practice moderation in everything.

It was believed for a long time that for electromagnetic waves to propagate through space, there existed some sort of underlying fabric through which it would travel. Sound waves, for instance, propagate by causing a disturbance of the air molecules. It is somewhat non-intuitive to think that radio waves (and light) can travel through space containing absolutely nothing without there being something there to help carry it along. However, there is no such medium or ether. Empty space is empty space. Even a vacuum has basic electromagnetic properties such as permittitivty and permeability.

Ether, a hypothetical medium of extreme tenuity and elasticity believed by scientists to be diffused not only throughout all space but among the molecules of which solid bodies are composed and to be the medium of transmission of light and heat. From magneto-optic phenomena it seems certain that something of the nature of molecular rotation is going on in the ether.

Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.

"Ether" is the familiar name for the compound discussed above, but it is also the name for a class of organic compounds of which diethyl ether, or ethoxyethane, is the best known.

The ether functional group is R-O-R', where R and R' are two (not necessarily identical) alkyl groups, e.g. methyl, CH3. In other words, ethers are compounds in which an oxygen atoms bonds singly to two alkyl groups. Compare esters, where the bridging oxygen atom connects an alkyl group to an acyl group:

  |       |                 ||      |
- C - O - C -             - C - O - C -
  |       |                         |

 an ether                    an ester
In official nomenclature, simple chain ethers are named by splitting the structure R-O-R' into two parts: one which contains the oxygen atom (R-O), and the other which does not (R'). The first part is an alkoxy group named after the corresponding alkyl group: CH3O is methoxy (after methyl), CH3CH2O is ethoxy (after ethyl) and so on. The second part is simply given the name of the corresponding alkane. Thus the simplest ether, CH3-O-CH3, is technically called methoxymethane, while the compound CH3CH2-O-CH2CH2CH3 is ethoxypropane.

In everyday language chemists rarely use these names, however, but an older system of the form "alkyl alkyl ether", where the two "alkyls" are the relevant alkyl groups. Therefore ethoxypropane is "ethyl propyl ether", methoxymethane is "dimethyl ether", and ethoxyethane, the "ether" of common language, is "diethyl ether".

Symmetrical ethers can be formed by acidifying the alcohol whose alkyl group corresponds to those in the ether: for example, diethyl ether can be formed by the reaction of ethyl alcohol (ethanol) with sulphuric acid at high temperature. However a more general synthesis for straight-chain ethers is the Williamson ether synthesis, developed by Alexander Williamson in the 1850s. First an alcohol, R-O-H, is reacted with sodium (sometimes in the form of sodium hyride or hydroxide) to produce the sodium alkoxide R-O-Na+, which effectively exists as the alkoxide ion, R-O-. This is then reacted with a haloalkane (alkyl halide) R'-CH2-X, where X is a halogen atom. In a bimolecular substitution reaction, the oxygen on the alkoxide attacks the carbon (emboldened above) in the alkyl halide, and replaces the halogen atom. Thus the alkyl group from the alcohol, and that from the alkyl halide, are linked by an oxygen atom to give R-O-CH2-R'.

For example, reaction of methanol, CH3-OH, with sodium followed by propyl chloride, CH3CH2CH2Cl, would give methoxypropane, CH3-O-CH2CH2CH3.

Because of the strength of the carbon-oxygen bond, ethers are unreactive compounds. This makes them useful as solvents for carrying out other organic reactions: two very commonly used ether solvents are diethyl ether and THF, tetrahydrofuran. This second one is an example of a cyclic ether: it is a symmetrical, five-membered ring in which one of the substituents is an oxygen atom, so the carbon groups bonded to the oxygen are also bonded to each other.

Perhaps the easiest way to get ethers to react is to treat them with a hydrogen halide, HX. The halide ion, X-, attacks one of the carbon atoms attached to the oxygen in the ether, cleaving it into the corresponding alcohol, R-O-H, and alkyl halide, R'-X. If the ether is unsymmetrical, the halide will preferentially attack the less substituted carbon.

Please, Everyone LISTEN UP. You can't make Ether out of Starter Fluid. Petrolium distillates (like heptane and hexane) are completely immiscible in water. So the water you get rid of won't contain any petrolium distillates, and the "ether" you are huffing will have all that gross stuff in it. Now you know. Don't try to distill starter fluid either. You will blow yourself up.

E"ther (?), n. [L. aether, Gr. , fr. to light up, kindle, burn, blaze; akin to Skr. idh, indh, and prob. to E. idle: cf. F. 'ether.] >[Written also aether.]

1. Physics

A medium of great elasticity and extreme tenuity, supposed to pervade all space, the interior of solid bodies not excepted, and to be the medium of transmission of light and heat; hence often called luminiferous ether.


Supposed matter above the air; the air itself.

3. Chem. (a)

A light, volatile, mobile, inflammable liquid, (C2H5)2O, of a characteristic aromatic odor, obtained by the distillation of alcohol with sulphuric acid, and hence called also sulphuric ether. It is powerful solvent of fats, resins, and pyroxylin, but finds its chief use as an anaesthetic. Called also ethyl oxide.

<-- also commonly, ethyl ether. --> (b)

Any similar oxide of hydrocarbon radicals; as, amyl ether; valeric ether.

Complex ether, Mixed ether Chem., an oxide of two different radicals in the same molecule; as, ethyl methyl ether, C2H5.O.CH3. -- Compound ether Chem., an ethereal salt or a salt of some hydrocarbon as the base; an ester. -- Ether engine Mach., a condensing engine like a steam engine, but operated by the vapor of ether instead of by steam.


© Webster 1913.

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