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 (a C6H5) bonded to a hydroxyl group (a OH). It is mildly acidic and 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.
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