phenol (fēˈnōl) [key], C6H5OH, a colorless, crystalline solid that melts at about 41°C, boils at 182°C, and is soluble in ethanol and ether and somewhat soluble in water. An aromatic alcohol, it exhibits weak acidic properties and is corrosive and poisonous. Phenol is sometimes called carbolic acid, especially when in water solution. It reacts with strong bases to form salts called phenolates. Phenol is important in industry in the production of certain artificial resins, e.g., Bakelite, and in the synthesis of many drugs, dyes, weed killers, insecticides, and explosives (e.g., picric acid). It is the simplest member of a class of hydroxy benzene derivatives, all of which contain a hydroxyl group attached to a benzene ring; these compounds may be thought of as derivatives of phenol and generically are called phenols.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.