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What is Phenol?

Phenol is an aromatic compound. The chemical formula of this organic compound is C6H6O. It is also known as Carbolic acid. It consists of a hydroxyl group and a phenyl group attached. Earlier it was used as carbolic soap. It is mildly acidic and corrosive to the respiratory tract, eyes, and skin.

It is a crystalline solid white and needs to be handled with care as it can cause chemical burns. Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge discovered Phenol in the year 1834. It was extracted from coal tar. It is also known as phenolic acid. If a compound is consisting of a six-membered aromatic ring and is bonded to a hydroxyl group directly, then it can be referred to as phenol.
Properties of Phenol

C6H6O Phenol
Molecular Weight/ Molar Mass 94.11  g/mol
Density 1.07 g/cm³
Melting Point 40.5 °C
Boiling Point 181.7 °C

Natural Sources of Phenol (Carbolic acid)- C6H6O

  • Phenol is a constituent of coal tar and is formed during the decomposition of organic materials. Increased environmental levels of phenol may result from forest fires. It has been detected among the volatile components of liquid manure.
  • Industrial sources of phenols and other related aromatics from petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, basic organic chemical manufacture, coal refining, pharmaceuticals, tannery and pulp, and paper mills.

Nomenclature of Phenols

Phenols are divided into three categories: monohydric, dihydric, and trihydric, depending on how many hydroxyl groups are linked to the benzene ring.

  • Monohydric Phenols: Hydroxybenzene, often known as phenol, is the most basic compound in this group, while the others are referred to as substituted phenols. The term “cresols” refers to the three isomeric hydroxyl toluenes.
  • Dihydric Phenols: Catechol, resorcinol, and quinol are the three isomeric dihydroxy benzenes and are more commonly referred to by these names.
  • Trihydric Phenols: These are also referred to as trihydroxy phenols. Trihydric phenols are also known by the names pyrogallol, hydroxyquinol, and phloroglucinol.

Uses of Carbolic acid

  • It is used as a precursor in drugs.
  • Used as an antiseptic.
  • It is used in the production of nylon.
  • Used to preserve vaccines.
  • It is used in oral analgesics.
  • Derivatives of phenol are used in beauty products like hair color and sunscreen.
  • It is used in the synthesis of plastics.
  • Used to produce detergents and carbonates.