Physical & Chemical properties of Phenols

chemistry 12th class cbse notes

Physical properties of Phenols

  • Phenols are colourless liquids or crystalline solids but become coloured due to slow oxidation with air.
  • Due to the presence of strong intermolecular hydrogen bonding, phenols have a higher boiling point than the corresponding hydrocarbon or aryl halides.

Physical properties of Phenols

  • Due to their ability to form hydrogen bonds with water, phenols are moderately soluble in H2O.
  • The phenols are acidic in nature and stronger acids than alcohols. This is due to the fact that the sp2 hybridised carbon of phenol to which −OH is attached, is highly electronegative which causes a decrease in electron density on oxygen. This Increases the polarity of O−H bond and results in an increase in ionisatlon of phenols than that of alcohols.

Physical properties of Phenols

Moreover, the phenoxide ion so produced is stabilised by the delocalization of charge in phenol.

Physical properties of Phenols

Note:  The presence of electron withdrawing group like NO2 group, increases the acidic strength whereas the electron donating groups like an alkyl group decreases the acidic strength. Therefore, the acidic strength order is

Physical properties of Phenols

Chemical properties of phenols

Electrophilic substitution reactions

The presence of OH group on benzene increases the electron density on the benzene ring making it more susceptible to attack by an electrophile. The reactions involving benzene ring are electrophilic substitution reaction. The presence of OH group makes the orthoand para carbon of benzene more electron rich than meta position. The OH group is called o ‒, p ‒ directing group.

Electrophilic substitution reactions

Reactions of phenol involving the cleavage of O–H bond

Kolbe’s reaction:

Kolbe’s reaction

Reimer-Tiemann reaction:

Reimer-Tiemann reaction

Fries rearrangement:

Esters of phenol gives phenolic ketones on rearrangement in the presence of anhydrous AlCl3. This reaction is called fries rearrangement.

Fries rearrangement




Reaction with dilute HNO3 :

Reaction with dilute HNO3

Reaction with conc. HNO3 :

Reaction with dilute HNO3


Bromination in solvents of low polarity like CS2 :


The reaction of phenol with bromine water:

The reaction of phenol with bromine water

Reactions of phenol involving cleavage of the C-O bond

Reaction with zinc dust

Reaction with zinc dust

Reaction with ammonia:

Reaction with ammonia

Uses of phenol

  • It is used as an antiseptic.
  • It is used as a disinfectant in household cleaners.
  • It is used in the preparation of resins, dyes, explosives, lubricants, pesticides, plastics, drugs, etc.


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