Ethers are present in nearly every class of functional molecules, from pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals to polymers and fuel compounds. The ability to install bespoke and complex ether functionality is required throughout synthetic chemistry, and a paper recently published in Chemical Society Reviews covers the entire field of acyclic α-tertiary ether synthesis.
Members of the 2019 and 2020 cohorts of the Synthesis for Biology & Medicine CDT, overseen by Prof. Darren Dixon, comprehensively reviewed over 50 years of literature in the field. It is hoped this will drastically reduce the challenge once associated with installing these functional groups, aiding chemists in a wide range of synthetic pursuits.
For over 100 years since c. 1850, a handful of synthetic methods have enabled ether bond formation. These cornerstone approaches run into challenges when sterically-hindered – i.e. α-tertiary – ethers are desired, severely hampering widespread access to ethers.
In the last 50 years, however, the array of available methods has changed dramatically. Contemporary synthetic fields employing redox chemistry, such as photochemistry, electrochemistry and transition metal-catalysis, enable access to new reactive intermediates that make hindered ethers far more accessible than before.
Read more in Chemical Society Reviews here.