Diethyl-Ether detector

Does anyone know of, or had experience of a Diethyl-Ether detector that could be used with an arduino board?

Diethyl-Ether is a sleeping or knockout gas that is often pumped into a house/caravan to put the occupants to sleep before a burglary or worse. Therefore it is good to get a warning if this gas should ever be present in the air.

A google search for Diethyl-Ether and arduino came up with nothing for me, so sorry if I missed something along the way though..... ;)

Thank you...

You will need very expensive equipment (like a gas chromatograph) to specifically detect small molecules like diethyl ether.

OK, there's first of all the question of what is "often" and after a quick Google search "does it really happen"? It seems so extremely unlikely a scenario (take the amount of ether needed for starters - and how to dose it so your victims get enough to go to sleep at all, yet not so much they're killed in the process in what is a highly uncontrolled environment) that there's a lot more to worry about than this - such as your typical house fire.

OK, to the question itself. Ether itself indeed will be very hard to detect using simple detectors. However the scenario also calls for actual people to be on the scene, moving around, and that's where motion detectors come in handy. Those are cheap, and are a very well known and reliable solution. Added bonus: they also protect you from the 100s of much more likely burglary type scenarios, that also call for actual people to be on the scene moving around.

Dogs work pretty well to detect burglars, and have the added benefit of being companions.

Yes, dogs, good one. Very sensitive sound sensors, and very good at distinguishing normal from suspect sounds. They'll also be able to smell the ether well before it's enough concentration to put you to sleep - but then, you can smell it yourself and not pass out (just like chloroform - been there done that - but it very quickly makes you feel rather lightheaded so it's not recommended to try for yourself). Now the hard part may be to interface a dog with an Arduino.

Thank you for all the replies (even the off topic ones)! :)

I have seen commercial pocket sized alarms for sale, so there must be sensors out there, I just have not been able to find them.

The problem is more common in France And Spain where I do spend some time.

Dogs are not the solution. They can be kliied with poisoned meat, have their throats slit, be electrocuted or be shot. Also, they cannot be left unattended for longer periods of time.

As for dosing, the bad guys don't really care. They steal the gas from a hosiptal or dentist and then pump it into the aircon intake and sit back and wait. Next thing most people know is waking up tied to a chair or bed with a throbbing head and seeing all their valuables gone. :o

House fires are another topic that can easily be dealt with via smoke/temperature/dust and flame detectors.

If anyone knows the sensors in the portable knockout gas detectors and where I can get one, then please do post.


If "pocket sized alarms" advertise [u]specifically[/u] sensing gases like diethyl ether, they are fakes. Guaranteed.

But they may provide a false sense of security.

I think I'd be far more worried about the risk of fire/explosion if someone tried to fill my house with sufficient ether to anesthetize me.

That aside, what degree of specificity do you need that will only readout ether concentration? A photoionization detector would work well and is settled science as PIDs are probably the most common flammable gas detection method used in industry for things like confined space entry and hazardous material/waste response. BUT, keep in mind, these are detecting anything with similar characteristics and not just ether. IIRC, most commonly calibrated using propane-it's been at least 16 years since my last emergency response.

You've fallen for on of those Urban Myths. There are several reasons why this scenario is completely unreasonable.

  1. If you've got enough ether to get a house to a concentration large enough to knock someone out, then you don't need to rob anyone. You've got a ton of money worth of ether on your hands. Probably worth a lot more than what you are going to steal from one house. Why waste it knocking people out when you could just sell it.

  2. Ether doesn't really knock people out asleep. It asphyxiates them. They'll die pretty quick under those sorts of conditions. When it was used as an anesthetic it was critical to control the amount of oxygen that the patient got and lots of people died. That's why they don't use it anymore.

  3. Any significant concentration of ether in an enclosed space is going to go kaboom pretty quick. A lightbulb would set it off.

  4. Diethyl ether doesn't boil at room temperature. So it wouldn't be a gas. It would be a liquid. It is quite volatile, and if you lean over a beaker of it you'd get a mighty whiff. But if you were going to try to fill a house through the air vent it would take days or maybe even weeks to generate enough gas.

  5. Ether is much heavier than air. So if someone was doing this, the victims would almost certainly have to be sleeping on the floor. The vapors are going to concentrate near the floor.

  6. That much ether would start melting draperies and other things made from synthetic fibers. Once you get in to try to rob the place you'd be in a real sticky mess.

  7. If you could get such a gas to actually fill a house, then how would you go in to rob it? You wouldn't be able to breathe either. A mask isn't going to help, because the ether would have displaced the oxygen. You'd need SCBA equipment, and again, if you've got the money for that then you've got no reason to be robbing folks houses.

skywatch: They steal the gas from a hosiptal or dentist

Neither hospitals nor dentists would have any diethyl ether on hand. The hospital may have a small bottle with a liter or two at most in the compounding pharmacy, but that would be about it.

Can I make this thread to cover all knock out and sleeping gases and not just diethyl-ether? Would that make much difference?


Arguments of #8 apply for pretty much all anaesthetic gases: large quantity needed to fill a house of even a caravan/RV; hard to get on such quantities; very hard to dose correctly in such a totally uncontrolled environment (the hardest part is probably getting enough in there to render any people present unconscious; the second hardest part is to make sure you don't kill them in the process); and finally the problem of entering such a premises to rob it without falling victim to your own gases.

Right, the same argument goes for any gas like that. If you've got enough to do what you say then there are druggies who will pay you far more for it than you would ever be able to steal from one house.