Ether is an organic functional group consisting of a disubstituted oxygen, or an oxygen atom bonded to 2 carbon atoms (if adjacent to a ketone, functional group is then called an ester). Ethers are commonly used as powerful non-polar solvents for both industrial applications and for chemical reactions. Petroleum ether (Naptha) is often used in an industrial setting due to its low cost while either diethyl ether or tetrahydrofuran is commonly used is a chemical laboratory setting. Ethers are extremely flammable and sometimes can exhibit explosive properties. Ethers can also be cleaved and/or added to larger organic molecules. Many commonly used chemicals and drug contain ether functional groups.Medical Application
Ether was used as a general anesthetic/analgesic for surgeries. Its use replaced chloroform which was extremely toxic (specifically caused liver damage). The American surgeon Crawford Williamson Long was the first to use it as a general anesthetic in 1842.Automotive Application
An Ether is sprayed into the air intake to start a stubborn engine. It may also be added to the fuel in race cars for extra power.
Petroleum ether (or pet ether as it's commonly called) does not have any particular chemical formula. All you can be relatively sure of is that there are ethers in it. There could be diethyl ether, butylpropyl ether, dipentyl ether... Pet ether is a solvent, and as such it's not necessary to know its chemical formula. It's simply a medium, not a reactant.
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