Is it possible to synthesize an ester from an ether in a single step? For example if I had an ether $\ce{(R-CH2-OR')}$, can I oxidize it so it will be an ester $\ce{(R-CO-OR')}$.


Yes, it is possible. One reagent to do so is acidic bromate salts. This paper discusses a number of optimizations and characterizations of the bromate-powered ether oxidation reaction.

$$\ce{R-CH2-O-CH2-R + BrO3- ->[H+][H2O; {r.t.}] R-CO-O-CH2-R + Br^-}$$

Hydrolysis of the formed ester leads to an undesired byproduct: the free acid $\ce{RCOOH}$. In addition to that byproduct, overoxidation of the substrate can also happen, leading to anhydrides or even $\ce{CO2}$.

There may well be plenty of other oxidants and catalysts than can achieve the same reaction, but I thought this one was notable because it works in water at room temperature. Yield depends strongly on reaction conditions and the vagaries of the particular substrates you use, though.


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