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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Fischer Esterification: 2-ethylhexyl benzoate

Fischer esterification can be a time-consuming process, requiring days for a reaction to reach equilibrium. In this article, researchers developed a way to hasten this process by using a specially designed microwave to heat the reaction quickly and evenly and at an increased pressure. In order to test the efficiency of the device, they synthesized 2-ethylhexyl benzoate from benzoic acid and 2-ethylhexanol as shown below.

Sulfuric acid as well as para-toluene sulfonic acid (PTSA) were used to catalyze the reaction. In order to shift the reaction towards the products, a large excess of 2-ethylhexanol was used and the water produced was constantly removed. One of the disadvantages of Fischer esterification is that dehydration can also occur, resulting in unwanted ether and alkene products. Because of this, the temperature and catalyst concentration must be carefully monitored. The researchers were able to show that microwave heating causes no ill effects on the reaction and reduces the time required to a matter of minutes while still producing a high level of the desired product.

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