Which is stronger acid- Phenol or Cresol and why?

Asked by  | 14th Apr, 2008, 01:43: PM

Expert Answer:

Compounds in which a hydroxyl group is bonded to an aromatic ring are called phenols. The chemical behavior of phenols is different in some respects from that of the alcohols, so it is sensible to treat them as a similar but characteristically distinct group. A corresponding difference in reactivity was observed in comparing aryl halides, such as bromobenzene, with alkyl halides, such as butyl bromide and tert-butyl chloride. Thus, nucleophilic substitution and elimination reactions were common for alkyl halides, but rare with aryl halides. This distinction carries over when comparing alcohols and phenols, so for all practical purposes substitution and/or elimination of the phenolic hydroxyl group does not occur.


substitution of the hydroxyl hydrogen atom is even more facile with phenols, which are roughly a million times more acidic than equivalent alcohols. This phenolic acidity is further enhanced by electron-withdrawing substituents ortho and para to the hydroxyl group,electrophilic aromatic substitution reactions, an oxygen substituent enhances the reactivity of the ring and favors electrophile attack at ortho and para sites. It was proposed that resonance delocalization of an oxygen non-bonded electron pair into the pi-electron system of the aromatic ring was responsible for this substituent effect.  An important principle of resonance is that charge separation diminishes the importance of canonical contributors to the resonance hybrid and reduces the overall stabilization. The contributing structures to the phenol hybrid all suffer charge separation, resulting in very modest stabilization of this compound. On the other hand, the phenolate anion is already charged, and the canonical contributors act to disperse the charge, resulting in a substantial stabilization of this species. The conjugate bases of simple alcohols are not stabilized by charge delocalization, so the acidity of these compounds is similar to that of water. This gives a qualitative understanding as to why phenols are moreacidic than alcohols but for quantitative comparison, pKas must bedetermined experimentally.m-cresol and p-cresol are weaker acids than phenol with pKa 10.01 and 10.17, respectively\r\n






Resonance. The charge is delocalized around the ring.


• Ring substituents, especially halogens and nitro groups, have marked effects on the acidity of phenol by a combination or resonance and inductive effects. Both

Answered by  | 15th May, 2008, 08:36: AM

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