Phenol, also known as carbolic acid, is an aromatic organic compound with the molecular formula C6H5OH. It is a white crystalline solid that is volatile. The molecule consists of a phenyl group (-C6H5) bonded to a hydroxyl group (-OH). It is mildly acidic, but requires careful handling due to its propensity to cause chemical burns. Phenol was first extracted from coal tar, but today is produced on a large scale (about 7 billion kg/year) from petroleum. It is an important industrial commodity as a precursor to many materials and useful compounds. Its major uses involve its conversion to plastics or related materials. Phenol and its chemical derivatives are key for building polycarbonates, epoxies, Bakelite, nylon, detergents, herbicides such as phenoxy herbicides, and numerous pharmaceutical drugs.
Although similar to alcohols, phenols have unique distinguishing properties. Unlike in alcohols where the hydroxyl group is bound to a saturated carbon atom, in phenols the hydroxyl group is attached to an unsaturated aromatic (alternating double and single bond) hydrocarbon ring such as benzene. Consequently, phenols have greater acidity than alcohols due to stabilization of the conjugate base through resonance in the aromatic ring.
1.1.1 Phenoxide anion
3.1 Niche uses
4.1 Second World War
5 Natural occurrences
5.1 Occurrence in whisky
9 See also
11 External links
Phenol is appreciably soluble in water, with about 84.2 g dissolving in 1000 mL (0.88 M). Homogeneous mixtures of phenol and water at phenol to water mass ratios of ~2.6 and higher are also possible. The sodium salt of phenol, sodium phenoxide, is far more water soluble.
Phenol is weakly acidic and at high pHs gives the phenolate anion C6H5O− (also called phenoxide):
PhOH ⇌ PhO− + H+ (K = 10−10)
Compared to aliphatic alcohols, phenol is about 1 million times more acidic, although it is still considered a weak acid. It reacts completely with aqueous NaOH to lose H+, whereas most alcohols react only partially. Phenols are less acidic than carboxylic acids, and even carbonic acid.
One explanation for the increased acidity over alcohols is resonance stabilization of the phenoxide anion by the aromatic ring. In this way, the negative charge on oxygen is delocalized on to the ortho and para carbon atoms. In another explanation, increased acidity is the result of orbital overlap between the oxygen's lone pairs and the aromatic system. In a third, the dominant effect is the induction from the sp2 hybridised carbons; the comparatively more powerful inductive withdrawal of electron density that is provided by the sp2 system compared to an sp3 system allows for great stabilization of the oxyanion.
The pKa of the enol of acetone is 10.9, comparable to that for phenol. The acidities of phenol and acetone enol diverge in the gas phase owing to the effects of solvation. About 1/3 of the increased acidity of phenol is attributable to inductive effects, with resonance accounting for the remaining difference.
Resonance structures of the phenoxide anion
The phenoxide anion has a similar nucleophilicity to free amines, with the further advantage that its conjugate acid (neutral phenol) does not become entirely deactivated as a nucleophile even in moderately acidic conditions. Phenols are sometimes used in peptide synthesis to "activate" carboxylic acids or esters to form activated esters. Phenolate esters are more stable toward hydrolysis than acid anhydrides and acyl halides but are sufficiently reactive under mild conditions to facilitate the formation of amide bonds.
Phenol exhibits keto-enol tautomerism with its unstable keto tautomer...
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