Difference Between Alcohol and Phenol

Alcohols are one of the most common chemical compounds and the most abundantly produced organic chemicals industrially. An alcohol can be defined as an organic chemical compound whose molecules contain at least one hydroxyl group. These hydroxyl groups must be attached to carbon atoms. Alcohols can be broadly classified as primary alcohols, secondary alcohols, or tertiary alcohols. This classification is usually done based on which carbon (belonging to the alkyl group) is chemically bonded to the hydroxyl functional group.

While, ethanol, methanol and propanol are common types, phenol is also sometimes considered as an alcohol. However, phenol is often said to be a different type of hydrocarbon because of its distinctive chemical behaviour. Moreover, in phenols, the hydroxyl group is directly bonded to the aromatic ring and not the carbon atom.

However, alcohols and phenols are important to humans in many ways. For example, alcohols are used in alcoholic beverages, while phenols are mainly used in pharmaceutical products where they are used as antiseptic substances.

Difference Between Alcohol and Phenol

Now that we have learnt something about alcohol and phenol, we will look at some some the major differentiating factors between the two chemical compounds. The key difference between alcohol and phenol is existing bond between the hydroxyl group of phenol and alcohol. Let’s have a look and understand the differences below.

Difference Between Alcohol and Phenol
Alcohol Phenol
The alcohols are a class of organic compounds that hold at least one hydroxyl functional group that is attached to a carbon atom. Phenols, on the other hand, are organic compounds consisting of a hydroxyl group which is attached to an aromatic system of hydrocarbons (arene).
Alcohols usually feature the hydroxyl group attached to aliphatic hydrocarbons. Phenols usually contain aromatic hydrocarbons.
In comparison to phenol, alcohols are known to be less acidic. Phenols are relatively more acidic in nature and should, therefore, be diluted before usage.
In terms of usage, alcohol is the main ingredient in alcoholic beverages. They are also used in ink, pharma, ink and many other industries. Phenols are mainly used in medicinal products as antiseptic agents.
Alcohols are mostly colourless and they usually exist in the liquid state. Phenols are colourless solids that usually exist as crystals at STP.
Alcohols show no impact or reaction during tests as they are mostly neutral. Phenol can change litmus paper red as they are acidic in nature.

These are some of the differences between alcohol and phenol. To know more about different types of alcohols and other chemistry topics you can keep visiting BYJU’s or download our app for interesting content and learning experience.

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