Video: EC17-18-S2-Q16A

Write chemical equations to show how you can obtain carbolic acid from benzene in an industrial setting.

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Video Transcript

Write chemical equations to show how you can obtain carbolic acid from benzene in an industrial setting.

Another name for carbolic acid is phenol. Phenol is hydroxylated benzene. This is what benzene looks like on its own. What this question is asking for is a synthetic route between benzene and phenol. It would be great if there were a single-step synthesis. However, the benzene ring needs to be activated before it can be hydroxylated. This activation occurs by means of chlorination, introducing a chlorine group that can be later substituted with a hydroxyl group. Chlorination of benzene occurs in the presence of an iron chloride catalyst and UV light, producing chlorobenzene and hydrogen chloride.

The next step involves substituting this chloro group with a hydroxyl group. This is done by treatment of chlorobenzene with sodium hydroxide. However, very high temperatures and pressures are required to achieve this swap. There is foreshadowing in the question about these kinds of conditions. An industrial setting is required to convert benzene to phenol because of just how deactivated benzene is to the process. This highly intensive process produces phenol and sodium chloride.

So what we’ve done is written chemical equations that show how you can obtain carbolic acid or phenol from benzene in an industrial setting. Other synthetic routes and conditions are possible. However, this is the most common, given current industry.

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