Williamson Ether Synthesis

Williamson Ether Synthesis

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  • General Characteristics

-The synthesis of unsymmetrical ethers by SN2 displacement of alkyl halides by alkoxides is called the Williamson ether synthesis. The reaction works best when the R group is primary.

-In certain cases such as trityl protection, the reaction proceeds by SN1 pathway.

E2 elimination is the main competing reaction, which predominates for tertiary alkyl halides.

-SN2-promoting aprotic polar solvents such as acetonitrile and DMF are generally used.

-The leaving group is not limited to halides. Alkyl sulfonates are equally usable.

  • General References

・Williamson, W. Liebigs Ann. Chem. 1851, 77, 37.
・Williamson, W. J. Chem. Soc. 1852, 106, 229.
・Dermer, O. C. Chem. Rev. 1934, 14, 385. DOI: 10.1021/cr60049a002

  • Reaction Mechanism


  • Examples






In SNAr type reactions, note that the reactivity decreases in the order of F > Cl > Br > I.


  • Experimental Procedure

  • Experimental Tips

  • References

[1] J. R. Prous, ed. Drugs Fut. 1992, 17, 1093.
[2] J. R. Prous, ed. Drugs Fut. 2002, 27, 339.
[3] J. R. Prous, ed. Drugs Fut. 1990, 15, 1080.

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