100 Nano-Stories: Ethers (Part 1)!

Episode #68: Naming, Nomenclature, And Properties!

Carlos Manuel Jarquín Sánchez
5 min readApr 13, 2021

Preface! ✨

It’s your favorite material science & nanotechnology enthusiast! Today, I want to introduce a branch of organic chemistry that has huge potential in polymer aerogels: Ethers!

If it helps to catch up to speed, check out this article on the nomenclature of all organic chemistry! Don’t worry, the article is only 3 minutes long! 😁

Without further ado, I have one question for you all:

I'm joking, ethers won’t kill you!

Ethers Explained! 💡

Definitions! 🔑

Ether → Substituents (mostly alkyl) are attached to an oxygen atom.

“alk-”/“-ane” → The bonds in the substituent are single. Single bonds mean that only 2 electrons are being shared per bond.

Any word in organic chemistry that ends in the suffix “yl” is a substituent.

Substituent → Carbon Rings or Carbon molecules that are not part of the longest carbon chain (main carbon chain). They are chemically bonded parts of molecules attached to a larger backbone/ring.

If you’re confused, think of the ether and the substituents as a tree. The tree trunk is the oxygen atom/ether, and the substituents/alkyl groups are the branches that are attached to the main tree trunk.

Naming + Nomenclature! 🔑

When naming an ether, you always start by looking for the longest carbon chain. But because this is an ether, you would add the number of substituents, and then add the word “ether” to include the oxygen atom.

Let’s do one example to demonstrate. I will name it via the IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) name and the classical way to name ethers:

IUPAC Naming! 🔑

From how to name ethers, we want to look for the longest carbon chain first.

In this case, we notice the top chain of carbons, contains 9 carbons. Each end of each line is one carbon atom. 9 carbons use the term “nonane”. But because the main carbon chain is attached to the oxygen atom and that there is only one carbon atom that cannot attach to the main carbon chain (that carbon atom is the one that connects the main carbon chain and the oxygen atom), we use “isononyl”.

But if you take a closer look, we notice that the carbon chain is on the 5th carbon atom. So in the official IUPAC naming, we use “5-” to initiate the naming of the IUPAC Naming.

Secondly, since we have an oxygen atom, we have to add the prefix “oxy”, to include the bonding of the oxygen atom in the ether.

Now, some of you may be wondering, what is that hexagon?

The hexagon is a cycloalkane.

(cyclo-) → Ring of carbon atoms.

Since the shape is a hexagon, we will name this ring of carbons cyclohexane.

Now we have our four components to name the ether via IUPAC Naming: “5-”, “iso-nonane”, “cyclohexane”, “oxy”.

The final name for this chemical is “5-nonoxy cyclohexane”.

Authors Note:

I know this was an exhausting process via the IUPAC Naming! Thankfully, there is a simpler way to naming the same organic compound! 😁

Classic Naming! 🔑

Now let’s try the unofficial, but the easier way to name the chemical!

We already know that the main carbon chain is made up of 9 carbons, but since there is one carbon atom that attaches the main carbon chain to the oxygen atom (aka substituent), we call the main carbon chain “isononyl”.

The cyclohexane is also a substituent, which means that you would have to switch the suffixes from “ane” to “yl”. This means that we now have the alkyl as the term “cyclohexyl”.

Finally, the oxygen atom will not use “oxy”. We use the term “ether”.

To name the organic compound in a classical naming, name the substituents via alphabetical order, and write the term “ether” at the end of the name in the organic compound.

The final name for this chemical is “Cyclohexyl Isononyl Ether”!

Closing Thoughts! 💭

Despite the similarities between ethers and alkanes, the official IUPAC naming can be quite difficult to remember, but if you prefer the classic/unofficial naming, go right ahead!

I personally like the unofficial naming, but in my research, they use IUPAC Naming, which is also fine, it just sometimes doesn’t click fast enough for me, and I sometimes have to go back to my notes to remember what the organic compound name means. 😅

See you tomorrow to talk more about the properties of Ethers! ✌🏽

Vocabulary! 📓

CycloalkaneThe Carbon Atoms are connected in the form of a ring, and the carbon bonds are single-bonded to other atoms.

EtherSubstituents (mostly alkyl) are attached to an oxygen atom; “alkoxy- /-ether”.

SubstituentsCarbon Rings or Carbon molecules that are not part of the longest carbon chain (main carbon chain). They are chemically bonded parts of molecules attached to a larger backbone/ring; “yl”.

AlkaneAn organic compound that is only made out of carbon & hydrogen atoms, only single covalent bonds.

IUPAC → International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

Bonus Resources! 💻

Connect →🔗



Personal Newsletter


© 2021 by Carlos Manuel Jarquin Sanchez. All Rights Reserved.