Esterification Virtual Lab Simulation | PraxiLabs

Esterification Virtual Lab Simulation

Chemistry | Organic Chemistry

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General Aim

Synthesis of esters. 


Fischer esterification reaction is used through which esters can be prepared by refluxing a carboxylic acid with either primary or secondary alcohol in the presence of a catalyst, commonly concentrated sulfuric acid to push the reaction forward.

Learning Objectives (ILO’s)

  • <p>Become proficient at running organic chemical reactions.

  • Learning basics of organic synthesis procedures.

  • Understand the mechanism of Fischer Esterification reaction.

  • Learn the function of Fischer Esterification reaction.

  • Get trained on how reflux and setup of reaction is used.</p>

Theoretical Background/Context

All esters; either naturally abundant or synthesized, have a  common chemical structure since they are derivatives of their corresponding carboxylic acids as shown below:

Figure 1. Common Chemical Structure of Esters


Esters can be mainly prepared through esterification reaction; where carboxylic acids react with alcohols to form esters and water. Esterification reactions are catalyzed by the presence of concentrated acids to force the reaction forward preventing it from going backward. The general mechanism of the esterification reaction is displayed in the following scheme.

Figure 2. Schematic Diagram for the Mechanism of Esterification Reaction


The main role of acid in Fischer esterification reaction is acting as a catalyst since it is a dehydrating agent. It withdraws the water that is produced as a by-product of the reaction. Consequently, this forces the reaction to go forwards and prevents it from going backward.
Esters are characterized by possessing sweet odors. In addition, they are considered as the fundamental organic compounds that impart the sweet odor and taste of most fruits such as banana (isopentyl acetate), apple (methyl butyrate), and cherry (benzyl butyrate), etc.

Principle of Work

An example Fischer esterification reaction is the synthesis of methyl salicylate oil that possesses the odor of wintergreen oil. The reaction proceeds between salicylic acid and methanol in presence of concentrated sulfuric acid as shown in the following scheme:

Figure 3. Schematic Diagram for Preparation of Methyl Salicylate from Salicylic Acid and Methanol in Presence of Sulfuric Acid

Finally, the formed wintergreen oil is extracted using diethyl ether with the aid of a separatory funnel.



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