Phenolic resins are a type of synthetic thermosetting resin invented by Dr. Leo Baekeland in 1907, and the material was originally called Bakelite. This was effectively the first plastic to go on sale and was typified by the old style black telephones.

Phenolic resins are divided into two different types:

  • Novolacs Not reactive, need addition of a cross linking agent to fully polymerise
  • Resoles Self curing, contains reactive groups

General properties

  • High temperature stability up to 300-350°C
  • High water and chemical stability
  • Often dark coloured (yellow to dark red)
  • Excellent price/performance profile

Why use Phenolic resins

Phenolic resins are one of the most versatile polymers yet invented, and whilst they were at the very start of the Age of Polymers, they continue to be developed into more and more applications.
Phenolics are characterised by

  • Simple to use
  • Versatile range of curing properties
  • Cured resin has high heat resistance
  • Cured resin has high resistance to chemical attack
  • Compatible with many fillers/fibres
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Global availability

In the modern world, Environment, Health and Safety has become a critical factor in choice of materials. Phenolics have:

  • Extensive history of usage leading to in-depth expertise and optimisation of methods of safe use.
  • Long established raw materials
  • Phenol
  • Formaldehyde


Articles on Competitive Positioning

The European Phenolic Resins Association regularly assesses the competitive positioning of phenolic solutions in the sectors in which they are used. This has highlighted some of the very real, but often under-stated, competitive advantages that they possess. This can happen when such solutions have been established for many years. However, to highlight the benefits in some demanding applications, the Association has commissioned a series of Articles which can be downloaded from this page. The relevant links are shown below.   

Friction article

Rubber & Adhesives article