Williamson Synthesis of Ethers
The above reaction is an example of a Williamson synthesis of an ether. It is one the earlier steps in the reaction mechanism resulting in the octaethylene glycol derivative of 1,1,1,3,5,5,5-heptamethyltrisiloxane. Such an initial Williamson synthesis reaction had to be carried out so that later steps in the reaction—that is, ones involving material types not readily accessible—could successfully yield the derivative product. The resultant glycol derivative is an example of a defined surfactant. This particular journal article focused on the correlation between surfactant constituents and the effect on properties such as spreading performance.
The Williamson synthesis involves an SN2 reaction in which a halogen, sulfonyl, or sulfate group is replaced by an alkoxide ion, which can itself be prepared by a reaction of the alcohol with an active metal such as sodium or its hydride (i.e. NaH). The resultant alkoxide salt then reacts with the alkyl halide (must be primary) to produce an ether via the SN2 mechanism.
Other examples of Williamson synthesis of ethers can be found in this same reaction mechanism used to produce the surfactant. Article Link.