An ester is a product of the reaction of an acid (usually organic) and an alcohol (the hydrogen of the acid R-COOH is replaced by an alkyl group R"). The most common esters found in nature are fats and vegetable oils, which are esters of glycerol and fatty acids.
Naming of esters:
O || C - CH3 / CH3 - CH2-OCH3-COO-CH3 methyl acetate is the simplest ester. One of the oxygens has a double bond. The CH3 group on the right can be replaced with additional CH2 units, producing other methyl esters, including methyl stearate, a component of biodiesel.
ethyl acetate/ethanoate (comes from (comes from the alcohol) the acid)
Esters can participate in hydrogen bonds as hydrogen-bond acceptors, but cannot act as hydrogen-bond donors, unlike their parent alcohols. This ability to participate in hydrogen bonding makes them more water soluble than their parent hydrocarbons. But the limitations on their hydrogen bonding also make them more hydrophobic than either their parent alcohols or parent acids. Their lack of hydrogen-bond donating ability means that they cannot form hydrogen bonds between ester molecules, which makes them generally more volatile than an acid of similar molecular weight.
Many esters have distinctive odors, which has led to their widespread use as artificial flavorings and fragrances. For example:
See also: transesterification