Crown Ethers

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  • A crown ether is a molecule containing hydrogen, carbon and oxygen atoms. Each oxygen atom is bound between two of the carbon atoms and arranged in a ring (hence "crown").

  • Crown ethers are named as x-crown-y where x denotes the total number of atoms in the cyclic backbone and y denotes the number of oxygen atoms.

  • Because of their strong binding ability, crown ethers are often added to reactions with ionic reagents, in which the reacting part is the anion. The cation is bound by the crown ether, which ensures solubility, while the anion, in the organic solvent, is practically free of solvation and thus very reactive.

  • The original crown ether discovered by Charles Pedersen has six oxygen atoms exposed along the inside wall of the ring.

  • In accepting specific atoms lock and key fashion, crown ethers mimic in a relatively uncomplicated way the very complicated functions of biological materials such as enzymes.

  • Crown ethers also have potential to be used as "scavengers" to remove certain elements like radioactive strontium from the environment or to regulate concentrations of sodium in the blood.

  • Crown ethers containing hydrophobic exteriors are lipophilic hosts, which can include cations, especially alkali and alkaline earth metal ion, into their cavities via an ion-dipole interaction.

  • Crown ether is the other important class of phase-transfer catalysts which critically differs from the onium salt, in that the whole inorganic salt is transferred into the organic phase. The reaction modes described above can generally be accommodated in such crown ether-catalyzed reactions, simply by replacing the onium cation by a metal cation complex of crown ether.

  • An interesting thing about a crown ether is that the ring can capture a positively charged ion like a metal ion and an ammonium ion. The negatively charged electrons of the oxygen atoms pointing inward are used to attract and catch the ion. This property made including pulling ionic substances into organic solvent.

  • Since crown ethers are the molecules that was chosen to bind the sodium cation contaminants in waste water, they were chemically modified to allow polymer anchoring.

  • Crown ethers have been considered as a useful medium for isotope separation.

  • The ability of crown ethers to complex cations has been used to study a large number of applications such as the production of sensors and the selective extraction of cations or the ionic transport in membranes.

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