Phenol has been in production since the 1860s. One of the early uses for phenol was as an antiseptic. Towards the end of the 19th century, industrial scientists found new uses for phenol in the synthesis of dyes, aspirin, and one of the first high explosives, picric acid. As early as 1872, it was found that phenol could be condensed with aldehydes (for example methanal) to make resinous compounds, a process still in use today.

Phenol-methanal (formaldehyde) resins are the basis of the oldest plastics, and are still used to make low cost thermosetting plastics such as melamine and bakelite, used in electrical equipment. These resins are also used extensively as bonding agents in manufacturing wood products such as plywood and MDF.







Phenol is also used to make chemical intermediates for a wide range of other applications, ranging from plastics to pharmaceuticals and agricultural chemicals.

Intermediate End Use/Products

Bisphenol A
diagram: bisphenol A

photo: CDsUsed to produce epoxy resins for paints coatings and mouldings, and in polycarbonate plastics, familiar in CDs and domestic electrical appliances.
Caprolactam diagram: caprolactam photo: fishing netsCaprolactam is used in the manufacture of nylon and polyamide plastics for a wide range of products, including carpets, clothing, fishing nets, moulded components and packaging.
Phenylamine (Aniline) diagram: phenylamine photo: car interiorThis is used as an antioxidant in rubber manufacture, and as an intermediate in herbicides, dyes and pigments, and pharmaceuticalsIt is used to make isocyanates for the production of polyurethanes, with a wide range of uses from paints and adhesives to expanded foam cushions.
Alkylphenols diagram: alkylphenols photo: washingThese compounds are used in the manufacture of surfactants, detergents and emulsifiers, and also in insecticide and plastics production.
Chloro-phenols diagram: chloro-phenols diagram: Dettol, TCPUsed in medical antiseptics and bactericides such as TCP and Dettol. Also used in fungicides for timber preservation and as additives to inhibit microbial growth in many products; used to manufacture a range of pesticides.
Salicylic acid diagram: salicylic acid This is used in the production of aspirin and other pharmaceuticals.

graph: intermediates from phenol

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