The primary characteristic that distinguishes ester from ether is their differing structure. The compound known as ester possesses a carbon-carbonyl-oxygen bond, while the ether compound has a carbon-oxygen-carbon bond.
Typically, ester is a derivative of carboxylic acids and alcohol, while ether is considered an organic compound. Esters are naturally occurring in most foods, especially fruits, and emit various scents that are commonly used in fragrances, pheromones and essential oils. Esters also originate from natural oils and fats.
Ethers are less polar than esters. Due to their volatility, esters can be identified using a laboratory procedure called gas chromatography. Ethers are very stable compounds and have relatively low chemical reactivity. This stability is due to an ether's inability to react with active metals, bases, reducing agents, oxidizing agents and dilute acids. Esters are more flexible and have a low polarity. These characteristics cause esters to be more volatile and less rigid.
Generally, Esters are prepared in a lab using a process called esterification. Esters can also be produced through alcoholysis of acyl chlorides and acid anhydrides. Ethers can be synthesized in a laboratory by using several different methods. The dehydration of alcohols and the Williamson ether synthesis are two common methods used to synthesize ethers.