Benzene is the parent substance of the aromatic compounds, a large and important group of organic compounds. It is the first of a series of hydrocarbons known as the benzene series, formed by the substitution of methyl groups, CH3, for the hydrogen atoms of the benzene molecule. The second member of the series is toluene, C6H5CH3, from which trinitrotoluene is derived, and the third member is xylene, C6H4(CH3)2, a solvent. In xylene and other benzene derivatives in which two of the hydrogens have been replaced, there are three possible arrangements of the substitution groups; in the
In addition to derivatives formed by the substitution of other groups for one or more of the hydrogen atoms of the benzene ring, two or more rings may be joined together, as in naphthalene, anthracene, and phenanthrene; or other atoms, such as nitrogen, may be substituted for carbon atoms in the ring, as in pyridine (C5H5N) and pyrimidine (C4H4N2). Among the important derivatives of benzene are phenol, aniline, and picric acid. Benzene and the other aromatic hydrocarbons are obtained for industrial purposes from the distillation of coal tar, a byproduct in the manufacture of coke, and from petroleum by special reforming methods. They are used in the manufacture of plastics, synthetic rubber, dyes, and drugs. Benzene is a known carcinogen.
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