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Ether is used as a solvent because it is aprotic and can solvate the magnesium ion.
A Grignard reaction involves the reaction of an alkyl (or aryl halide) with magnesium metal to form an alkylmagnesium halide.
##”R-X” + “Mg” stackrelcolor(blue)(“dry ether”color(white)(X))(→) “R-MgX”##
Diethyl ether is an especially good solvent for the formation of Grignard reagents for two reasons.
(a) Ether is an aprotic solvent
The ##”R-Mg”## bond is highly polar: ##stackrelcolor(blue)(δ^(-))(“R”color(white)(l))-stackrelcolor (blue)(δ^+)(“Mg”)”X”##
The Grignard carbon is highly basic and reacts with the acidic protons of polar solvents like water to form an alkane.
##stackrelcolor (blue)(δ^(-))(“R”color(white)(l))”-“stackrelcolor (blue)(δ^+)(“Mg”)”X” + “H-OH” → “R-H” + “HO-MgX”##
Ether has no acidic protons, so Grignard reagents are stable in ether.
(b) Ether is a great solvating agent
The ##”MgX”## bond in a Grignard reagent is ionic: ##”R-Mg”^+ color(white)(l)”X”^-##.
Hence, it is difficult to form a Grignard reagent in a nonpolar solvent.
The ##”C-O”## bond in an ether is quite polar, and the oxygen of the dipole can solvate and stabilize the ##”R-Mg”^+## ion.
Thus, Grignard reagents are soluble in ether.
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