What is phenolic resin?

Phenolic resin can be used to make outdoor plywood.

Phenolic resin is a heat-cured plastic formed from the reaction of a carbon-based alcohol and a chemical called an aldehyde. Formaldehyde is a common raw material for this type of resin, but other related chemicals can be used. Resin is hard, heat resistant and can be mixed with a wide variety of materials for industrial and residential use.

A phenol is an aromatic hydrocarbon, meaning it contains a group of six carbons linked in a circular arrangement. This molecular shape allows the molecule to bind to other molecules at selected locations around the ring. An aldehyde provides a bonding molecule that creates a regular pattern or grid of phenol groups. The reaction takes place with heat and creates a very strong and stable polymer called thermoset plastic. Hydroxybenzene, or C 6 H 6 O, is often called phenol and is a common raw material. Other phenolic compounds can be used, including material separated from the cashew nut shell.

An antique telephone made from Bakelite®, a phenolic resin.

There are a variety of uses for phenolic resin in commercial and domestic applications. It can be cured around a tarpaulin or fiber core to create rigid parts used in pump impellers, gears or other heat resistant applications. If the paper is saturated with this resin, a popular laminate for kitchens and bathrooms can be created. In the early 20th century, resin was mixed with wood fibers to create Bakelite®, a popular material for oven handles, kitchen appliances, and decorative door and cabinet pieces.

In the early 20th century, phenolic resin was mixed with wood fibers to create Bakelite, a popular material for radios.

See also  What are the major ice ages in Earth's history?

Phenolic resin board is widely used for electronic circuit boards in the 21st century. Cured resin is often mixed with small amounts of natural or synthetic fibers to prevent breakage, because resin can be brittle when cured. The boards do not conduct electricity and resist heat generated by electronic equipment.

Compressors and pumps can use phenolic parts due to their chemical and heat resistance. Uncured resin is a liquid, so custom part shapes can be molded to meet specific requirements. The parts are lightweight and can replace metal in marine or aeronautical applications where weight reduction is required.

Fire resistance is an important benefit to phenolic resin because the material chars rather than burns. Coal is a reaction where molecules are changed to a carbon structure, rather than burning like ash. Resins that are exposed to extreme heat release very little toxic fumes, which makes them useful in aircraft and automotive parts. On spacecraft, heat shields and rocket nozzles can be made from phenolic resins, providing a material that wears out and resists burning.

The carbon circular shape of phenols makes resins useful as adhesives. They form good chemical bonds with a wide variety of materials and create a very stable adhesive bond when cured. These adhesives are widely used for laminated or layered building boards, decorative wall boards and interior surfaces on transportation equipment.

Leave a Comment