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Esters and Their Aromas

By: Ervin Lemogo To: Mr. Muscat October 15/2013 Partners: Amanda and Matt

Esters have played a big role in the use of synthesizing scents that come from things, such as fruits and other nature based things. In order to utilize the scents in products such as perfumes, nail polish removers or shampoos. Esters, Alcohols, Carboxylic acids and are one of the many functional groups of hydrocarbons. Alcohols contain a hydroxyl group attached to one of the carbons within a chain. The OH group gives alcohols different properties such as allowing it to hydrogen bond, have high melting and boiling points and are very polar, which makes it more soluble in water. Carboxylic acids contain to functional groups attached to a carbon at the end of a chain, which are oxygen double bonded to a carbon and a hydroxyl group attached to that same carbon. Carboxylic acids are able form hydrogen bonds with each other, and are polar molecules, making it soluble in water. Esters are formed through an esterification reaction between an alcohol and carboxylic acids and at room temperature they are gases. Esters are similar to carboxylic acids, but do not contain an OH group, making it a less polar molecule. Also due to the lack of an OH attachment, esters boiling and melting points decrease and are less soluble in water. At different temperatures, long chained Esters are classified as being a fats or oils. At temperatures higher than room temperature, esters are fats, while below room temperature esters are liquids (Chemguide). In the lab conducted, different alcohols and carboxylic acids were used to produce esters in an esterification reaction. The alcohols and carboxylic acids were each placed within a test tube and then mixed together with an H2SO4 catalyst. The mixtures were then each placed in a beaker with water and heated. The mixtures were then taken out and each placed within a dry dish and water was then dropped on top of each mixture, making it possible to smell the scent of each ester. After conducting

the lab, the aromas produced by each ester should be identifiable and produce a scent that is either fruity or smell like a commercially use product.

Observations and Results

During the investigation, it took multiple trials in order to come to a conclusive smell for each ester that was produced from the esterification reaction. This was due to the aromas potentially all mixing up or the perception of the smell being different between each person. Each structure, smell and names of the esters, alcohols and carboxylic acids were recorded in either; table 1: results and names, Figure 1: Alcohol structure and names, Figure 2: Carboxylic acid structures and names and Figure 3: Structure and names of Esters. From creating the structural diagrams for each ester, the size of the ester affected the aroma of the ester that was formed from the esterification. Ranging the smells from a consumer used product like nail polish to a more fruity smell, such as pineapple (see figure 3). Through each esterification performed, each ester produced a different aroma. Each aroma obtained was referred to smell that was previously known from things such as fruits and commercial products. During the reaction of the esterification, due to the different structures formed by each ester (refer to figure 3), it was later concluded that the smells produced changed, due to there being a different amount of carbon atoms in each ester, such as ethyl ethanoate in comparison to pentyl ethanoate. (see figure 3) ethyl ethanoate only contained up to four carbons and smelt like nail polish remover, while

pentyl ethanoate, which had seven carbons in total, smelt like bananas(see Table 1). During the identification of esters, cold water had to be added in order to get a better smell of the ester produced, since the water acted as a layer leaving any of the carboxylic acids and alcohols not reacted underneath and pushed the esters on top and reduce the temperature to room temperature, making it easier to smell. In order for the esterification reaction to completely work sulphuric acid was used as the catalyst. It was used as a catalyst because in order for the esterification reaction to occur completely, H2SO4, had to be used in order to speed up the reaction and completely react the alcohols and carboxylic esters in order to produce the ester. During the investigation the carboxylic acids were soluble within the aqueous mixture because there was up to a maximum of five carbons within each carboxylic acid, (see figure 2) making the carbon chain become miscible in the solution. Otherwise it would have been insoluble and unable to mix. The esters within the investigation produced were insoluble. This is because the hydrogen bonding that esters have is very weak and they do not have the capability of hydrogen bonding to each other. Also at room temperature esters are in a gaseous state, which makes it rise up from the solution as well and not mix with the solvent, giving a person the ability to smell the aroma of the esters

In Conclusion, the aromas produced by each ester was identifiable by the end of the lab. This is true because at room temperature the properties of esters enable them to become a gaseous state at room temperature, which allows the ability for people to smell the different types of aromas produced by each ester. Also due to the number of carbon atoms affecting the smell of the esters, each ester had its own unique smell to it, making it easier to specify a unique smell for each ester produced. Through the comparison with other groups, the aromas were all the same, but in comparison to other sources, such

as Hartnell. For example the smell produced by ethyl ethanoate was suppose to smell like glue (Hartnell), while in the lab conducted it smelt like nail polish remover. The resulting smells obtained were different from those of other sources. This could potentially have been due to human error, in the sense that the smell perceived by others were different from the smells that were obtained within the lab. Also the environment could have affected the resulting smells due to the aromas mixing over time in the atmosphere of the classroom and changing the smell of the esters being identified. Although some of the smells may have been affected, majority of them were the same as the sources that were found online. Overall the properties of esters have given people the ability to smell different types of scents and be able to synthesize different smells in order to use in everyday life.


Clark, Jim. "ESTERIFICATION OF CARBOXYLIC ACIDS." chemguide. 1 Jan. 2004. Web. 12 Oct. 2013. "esters." hartnell. Web. 12 Oct. 2013.
"Salicylic acid." Wikipedia. Web. 7 Oct. 2013.