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Author: Subject: diethyl ether
brew
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diethyl ether

I have checked out numerous procedures to make this compound, and found one that stated quiet clearly, that denatured ethanol(methylated spirits) could be used. I decided instead to distill methylated spirits and collect gaseous products(methanol) in the range between 60 - 75 deg celcius, where only about 10 or so ml came over in the period of a good 2 hours. Total pot contained 500ml.
Rather than go ahead with the reaction, I decided to test the addition of 98% sulphuric acid to 50ml of distillate and slowly - cautiously- added 10ml of the sulphuric acid. The solution slowly turned redish brown and evolved a fair bit of heat.
I have found various procedures for the preparation of diethyl ether, but none of them described the colour of the pot when sulphuric acid is added to ethanol. I am relatively new at practical chemistry and was surprised by the color change. I understand the mechanism of the reaction and have a good clear preparation etc, but thought I should discuss the color change and question whether it could of been brought about by the use of methylated spirits and perhaps some sort of additive that I have not removed by my initial distillation. Perhaps the color change is what just actually occurs in this reaction - any thoughts, or answers to my questioning would be appreciated.
woelen

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The color change even occurs with pure ethanol. It seems that there is a side reaction, in which sulphuric acid dehydrates the ethanol and subsequently some polymeric compound is formed. Many times, such polymeric compounds are brown or black and in very low concentrations they tend to be yellow, orange, red.

I have similar results with acetone.

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brew
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Thanks. I just want to be careful with things and when something unexepected occurs I want to know what is happening.

bmc

Klute
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the pot will end up BLACK after heating anyway.. i your sulfuric acid clear, or colored? In any case I don't think this can cause a problem for the recation your product will be distuille doff in any case, and you should fractionnate it afetr washing and drying. All the junk will stay in the initial pot.

I suppose you have read Len1's excellent piece of work on the subject in prepublication?

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evil_lurker
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One other thing, since your product is methylated spirits, your looking at anywhere from 6-50% by weight methanol.

That means your going to get a bend of dimethyl, methyl ethyl, and ethyl ethers. The problem with this is methyl ether has a boiling point of like 9 degrees, methyl ethyl somewhere in between that and ethyl ether.

Yields are going to suck unless you have one hell of a chiller.

Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer.
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Are you sure methylated spirit is that much methanol?
I have a 2.5L ethanol from Fisher, and the label says:

Methylated spirit industrial , 99% v/v , (74 O.P, alcohol content about 99%), pure

Seems like 99% ethanol to me. Or does the 99% actually mean alcohol as both ethanol and methanol? If yes, what does the O.P mean?
woelen

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Usually, 99% is indeed the sum of both alcohols, but I do not expect more than a few percent of methanol in the methylated spirit. I think it is exaggerated to say that this can contain up to 50% of methanol.

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DJF90
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I agree with woelen. In the UK...

"in the case of industrial methylated spirits, with every 95 parts by volume of spirits there shall be mixed 5 parts by volume of wood naphtha.

in the case of mineralised methylated spirits, with every 90 parts by volume of spirits there shall be mixed 9.5 parts by volume of wood naphtha and 0.5 parts by volume of crude pyridine, and to the resulting mixture there shall be added mineral naphtha (petroleum oil) in the proportion 7.5 litres to every 2,000 litres of the mixture and synthetic organic dyestuff (methyl violet) in the proportion 3.0 grammes to every 2,000 litres of the mixture."

...according to a government website. Wood naptha is an alternative name for methanol. It goes on to say...

"Water may be mixed with spirits before methylation or with methylated spirits, but the quantity of water added must not reduce the proportion or quantity of denaturants in the resulting mixture below the proportions or quantities given above for the appropriate class of methylated spirits."

This implies that a simple distillation may not yeild absolute ethanol, even with an efficient column, as any water present will produce an azeotrope. However methylated spirits is a cheap and easily accessible source of ethanol.
brew
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 Quote: Originally posted by Klute the pot will end up BLACK after heating anyway.. i your sulfuric acid clear, or colored? In any case I don't think this can cause a problem for the recation your product will be distuille doff in any case, and you should fractionnate it afetr washing and drying. All the junk will stay in the initial pot. I suppose you have read Len1's excellent piece of work on the subject in prepublication?

The sulfuric acid is clear and no I had not looked at the prepublication work done by Len 1. I have now and I am pleased you pointed this out. Thanks.

pantone159
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 Quote: Originally posted by woelen I think it is exaggerated to say that this can contain up to 50% of methanol.

I think it may depend. I have some OTC 'Denatured alcohol' that according to the MSDS is 65-75% MeOH. This doesn't really claim to approximate ethanol though.
not_important
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what the labeling means will depend where you are, but for the UK:

MagicJigPipe
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Don't buy OTC denatured alcohol. In most major cities there will be someone that supplies solvents. There is a solvent called "Synasol, Anhydrous" which (most of the time) consists of 95% EtOH and 5% MeOH, IPA or some other denaturant (most of the time it's MeOH). That is the minimum allowable denaturant percentage (for MeOH) that is allowed while avoiding the liquor tax.

It's VERY cheap, too. Cheaper than buying it at the hardware store, that's for sure.

"There must be no barriers to freedom of inquiry ... There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors. ... We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it and that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. And we know that as long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress." -J. Robert Oppenheimer
evil_lurker
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Honestly, who the heck wants to use a product laced with methanol, MIBK, and gasoline in it as a feedstock for high purity ether production?

Its fucking ridiculous how hard it is to get pure alcohol in the USA at a decent price... the closest OTC thing to pure EtOH is Everclear and that costs $85-90 a gallon which is bullshit IMO... IIRC almost$50 of that is taxes.

Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer.
JohnWW
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Denatured alcohol here in New Zealand is called "methylated spirits", $old in supermarkets and hardware stores, avoiding the large excise duty on pure ethanol (which could be used as booze). It has a blue dye, which I presume is methyl violet, but the labels on the 1L and 5L plastic bottles that it comes in do not say what the denaturants in it are. I will have to write to the chemical firms that produce it to find out. Ethanol is made here by fermentation and distillation of sugar (sucrose), whey (lactose), and wheat (starches); and methanol is mostly made from the methane in natural gas in the Fischer-Tropsh process either for export or subsequent catalytic processing into synthetic gasoline (and can also be made by destructive distillation of wood waste or straw). brew Hazard to Self Posts: 96 Registered: 25-4-2008 Member Is Offline Mood: enthralled  Quote: Originally posted by evil_lurker Honestly, who the heck wants to use a product laced with methanol, MIBK, and gasoline in it as a feedstock for high purity ether production? Its fucking ridiculous how hard it is to get pure alcohol in the USA at a decent price... the closest OTC thing to pure EtOH is Everclear and that costs$85-90 a gallon which is bullshit IMO... IIRC almost $50 of that is taxes. I dare say you have exhaused all avenues for a cheap 100% but just in case you or another, haven't thought of this, I'd at least mention it. French polishing requires this product and do not require great amounts. In AUS this product at 4L (aqua label methylated spirits 1000mL/L 100% ethanol) can be obtained, but not easily, as most places do not stock- nor do they advertise for obvious reasons. It is around$20 for 4L. I chose to do the diethyl preparation not because I cant obtain pure EtH but because the usual methylated spirits is a lot cheaper.

MagicJigPipe
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So, making Et2O via "methylated spirits" (for some reason I have never seen it called that before) is cheaper than just buying or distilling Et2O (EtH is ethane, BTW) in your area? That's crazy.

There is a source (in the US) of 80% Et2O (with the other 20% being propane, butane and carbon dioxide and a viscous oil, all of which are much more easily removed than heptane or hexane). In fact, this product can sometimes just be used as is. Noone ever seems to be interested in it's existence, though. I mean, you don't even have to fractionate this stuff, just distill and you're done.

I hope I'll never have to use the H2SO4 + EtOH method because it seems like a royal pain in the ass. Good luck, though.

"There must be no barriers to freedom of inquiry ... There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors. ... We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it and that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. And we know that as long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress." -J. Robert Oppenheimer
brew
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I haven't given it a thorough search to obtain Et2O but it doesn't seem to be common OTC in AUS. As I stated, I am learning practical chem so I thought preparing this compound is a good start. I have just begun simple distillation and have not yet ventured to using a fractional column. You got to start somewhere ha!

bmc
woelen

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If you want to obtain some practical experience with chemistry, then making diethyl ether is not the thing to start with for the following reasons:
1) The reaction, making the stuff, is not clean at all. There are many side-reactions.
2) Diethyl ether has a very low boiling point. You need really good cooling, plain tap water at room temperature may be insufficient.
3) Diethyl ether is EXTREMELY flammable. If you don't have practical experience, then there is a big chance of getting a major accident. A simple electrostatic spark may cause a big explosion and subsequent fire. You need to take very good safety measures when dealing with this highly volatile and flammable compound.

If you want to get experience and you also want to make some useful reagents, then you could try to make nice colorless pure HCl from OTC muriatic acid, or from table salt and dilute sulphuric acid. Another nice thing to do is making pure aqueous ammonia at a decent concentration from NaOH and ammonium sulfate fertilizer (or ammonium nitrate, or ammonium chloride). Both of these can be done nicely with a distillation setup. In the case of ammonia, you put some water in the collector flask.

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brew
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Thanks woelen, When I say I am learning prac chem, I do have a year worth of a Diploma level lab tech course and from that I am really safety conscious. I am currently an undergraduate in Biomedical Science but lack distallation experience. I have understood your post and will be mindful and not be in too much of a hurry in this area. So far I have made a shit load of salts via reactions including electrolysis. My initial distillation was ethanol I prepared from yeast and sugar which fermented, which went well. I didn't get as much as I thought and will look at improved yields. I did do the ether prep and placed the reciever flask in ice water that included salt which brought the temp down enough. I have a good column but need another stand and do not want to make things do as I do see the importance of being set up right. Getting the distillation glassware was a buz and I suppose Ive been in abit of a hurry to try these things out. I love doing this stuff. It is insanely good. I will also do your suggestion of concentrating ammonia in di water.

bmc
Maya
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I'm pretty sure when I made Et2O you had to add the EtOH to the conc sulphuric acid @ 125 C and not the acid to the EtOH

Also you need many long distillation columns filled with ice cold water

much easier to get it in other ways, and yes, colored products in the rxn flask are inevitable

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Pure EtOH is even harder to find here in Canada,
Have yet to find any place that sells it.
Most of what you can get is only 40%, and that is over priced
Even the Lab Suppliers don't have it, well at least listed in their catalogs.

It costs me less to buy ether then to make it.
$195 for 18L Lab Grade. Well helps to be able to buy though my work too. MagicJigPipe International Hazard Posts: 1554 Registered: 19-9-2007 Location: USA Member Is Offline Mood: Suspicious  Quote: dare say you have exhaused all avenues for a cheap 100% but just in case you or another, haven't thought of this, I'd at least mention it. French polishing requires this product and do not require great amounts. In AUS this product at 4L (aqua label methylated spirits 1000mL/L 100% ethanol) can be obtained, but not easily, as most places do not stock- nor do they advertise for obvious reasons. It is around$20 for 4L. I chose to do the diethyl preparation not because I cant obtain pure EtH but because the usual methylated spirits is a lot cheaper.

If Australia's liquor laws are in any way similar to the US's then this cannot be "100% pure EtOH". It wouldn't be called "methylated spirits" if it were just EtOH. Also, if it says "100% ethanol" that usually does not mean pure ethanol. They mean it is anhydrous but still contains MeOH or some other denaturant. I know this for a fact as the EtOH I buy claims to be "100% EtOH, Anhydrous". At best this is misleading and at worst a flat-out lie. It should say, "95% EtOH, 5% MeOH, Anhydrous".

ALMOST NOTHING that is pure EtOH can be sold without a liquor tax. There are VERY FEW exceptions and those can only be had by pharmaceutical companies, some industry and some specialized labs. There will certainly not be any pure EtOH sold to individuals without a high liquor tax (at least in the US).

In fact, I did some research a while back on the subject and apparently the ONLY way even pharm companies can buy it tax free is when they use it in medicine. For some reason they still use denatured for synthesis. The conclusion I drew from that is that the govt. is so restrictive that the ONLY way they allow EtOH to be untaxed is if it shows up in a drug end product. Another reason could be that denatured is cheaper and most syntheses will not be hurt by 5% MeOH.

Either way it's bullshit, IMO. These laws date back at least a hundred years and are out of date, IMO.

Although I'm sure a decent chunk of our govt's money comes from taxation of liquor. It's a double edged sword. Perhaps... Nevermind, don't want to get into that!

"There must be no barriers to freedom of inquiry ... There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors. ... We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it and that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. And we know that as long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress." -J. Robert Oppenheimer
Siddy
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Thats true MagicJigPipe, even people in industry, such as cleaners pay over $80USD for anhydrous EtOH -its only labs that get it for$2/L, and yes sometimes even labs will used denatured just so there lab report has one less potential drug listed that week.

I don't have any issues with the high taxes, in countries like USA, AUS etc where drinking is so big, the govt makes a lot of money which means they don't need to tax other things so much - works out for the non-drinker (or atleast non-alcoholic). Although it doesn't stop the govt from becoming greedy and just taxing everything like crazy...

Just thought id add, a lot of "methylated spirits" no longer contain methanol, they use less toxic (but worst tasting) denaturing agents, such as acetates. These usually cost a dollar or 2 more than the methanol ones. 2 out of 3 local brands have done this where i live.

Brew, i think you can make it out of Ethylene glycol, found in car coolant (antifreeze), but EtOH is the easiest. Also, i doubt its illegal for you to import 10 odd bottles of Methylated spirits.

[Edited on 12-6-2008 by Siddy]
brew
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I was somewhat shocked to find this product and was told that it is free of methanol or other denaturants, as the process of shellacking requires 100% purity. I showed the person my Uni card -photo Id, and said I am doing various experiments at home associated with my degree, and need to know whether they felt confident with this 100% purity status of this product and do they have total confidence with the producers claim etc. Once again they stated that they did. I am not drinking the stuff, nor am I breathing in its fumes and at this stage have not needed ethanol at such purity. I stumbled upon this outlet, that mainly deals with tradesman and did so as I was looking to buy toluene. I have never seen this aqua labeled methylated spirits before, nor have I seen it in other shops. It is quite a well known brand name in Aus. I will check its b.p. My scales are not good enough to distinguish between ethanol and methanol if this is the case- specific gravity etc. I will also contact the producers and state that one of my shellacking buddies has said that it does contain a denaturing compound etc, and see what they say. I am interested now that you have questioned this. I will post what I find.
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Get some sugar, 48hour turbo yeast, and build yourself one of these:

Then stick a column on top of it and a reflux dildo:

Presto cadabra, 90% pure EtOH after 2 distillations. Run the EtOH again thru a column with molecular sieves, then redistill... there is your EtOH... not that much work (just a lot of babysitting) and still less than \$25 per gallon.

Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer.
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 Sciencemadness Discussion Board » Fundamentals » Beginnings » diethyl ether Select A Forum Fundamentals   » Chemistry in General   » Organic Chemistry   » Reagents and Apparatus Acquisition   » Beginnings   » Responsible Practices   » Miscellaneous   » The Wiki Special topics   » Technochemistry   » Energetic Materials   » Biochemistry   » Radiochemistry   » Computational Models and Techniques   » Prepublication Non-chemistry   » Forum Matters   » Legal and Societal Issues