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Esters - How are They Made and What are They Used For?


Firstly, let's get across what actually is an ester. An ester basically chemicals with pleasant smells. For this reason, they are used as solvents and in perfumes. They are made by reacting alcohol with an organic acid. In the reaction sometimes sulphuric acid is used as a catalyst to speed up the reaction. But, as well as making it like the way above, esters are also made naturally such as lavender oil.

The equation to make an ester is an follows:
  • Alcohol + Organic Acid ------> Ester + Water
So we know what esters are used for, but how are they made?
One hydrogen comes from the alcohol molecule. One oxygen and another hydrogen comes from the organic acid. These two hydrogens and  oxygen form a water molecule. The remains of the alcohol and organic acid join to form an ester.

From the diagram to the right, we see what happens. We can see the alcohol to the left as CH3OH as methanol reacting with the organic acid being butyric acid (C4H8O2). With the reaction, one hydrogen from the methanol and one hydrogen and oxygen from the butyric acid join to form H2O or water while a double bond is formed between a carbon and oxygen atom to make the ester methyl butanoate.

So to recap:
  • Esters are nice smelling.
  • Used as solvents.
  • Used in perfumes.
  • Are made naturally.
  • Made in laboratories from reacting alcohol with organic acid.
  • Reaction produces water.
  • Can be sped up with the use of sulphuric acid.

About Will Green

A student in England studying Automotive Engineering with Motorsport, Will created Ask Will Online back in 2010 to help students revise and bloggers make money. You can follow AskWillOnline via @AskWillOnline.

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