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Physical Properties of Esters

The esters are the flavors and fragrances of nature. Many of them have healing powers that are not fully understood and the naturally occurring esters are the basis for "folk medicine". The long chain esters are not generally classified as hazardous material.

However the short chain esters and in particular the acrylates are very hazardous. Few of the rest of the class are flammable but they are combustible. The esters have first names related to the alkyl radicals such as methyl, ethyl, propyl and butyl and have last names such as formate, acetate, propionate,butyrate, acrylate and so on.

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Ester Properties

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The name of an ester is based on the carboxylic acid from which the ester is derived. Esters are common organic compounds present in fats and oils. They are also used in food flavorings and as perfumes. Esters are found commonly in nature as fats and oils. They often have pleasant smells and contribute to the flavoring of many foods.

Some examples of natural esters are shown below.

HCOOCH3 methyl methanoate  raspberries
butyl butanoate
CH3COOCH2CH2CH(CH3)2 3-methylbutyl ethanoate

Esters are produced through esterification. An esterification reaction is the reaction of a carboxylic acid with an alcohol to produce an ester. A strong acid catalyst is needed for esterification.

RCOOH + HOR' $\rightleftharpoons$ RCOOR' + H2O

If the esterification process a -OH group is lost from the carboxylic acid a -H atom is lost from the alcohol and water is formed as a by product.

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