What is the Difference Between Resol and Novolac

The main difference between resol and novolac is that resol resins are highly cross-linked and suitable for high-temperature applications, while novolac resins have a more flexible nature and are used in applications where reprocessing or lower heat resistance is required.

The phenolic resin family encompasses a group of versatile synthetic polymers that have found extensive applications across various industries. These resins are created by polymerizing phenol (or substituted phenols) with an aldehyde, typically formaldehyde. Resol and novolac are two resins of the phenolic resin family.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Resol
      – Definition, Structure, Applications
2. What is Novolac
      – Definition, Structure, Applications
3. Similarities Between Resol and Novolac
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Resol and Novolac
      – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Resol, Novolac

Difference Between Resol and Novolac - Comparison Summary

What is Resol

Resol resins are part of the phenolic resin family, which includes both resoles and novolacs. The synthesis of resol resins involves the reaction of phenol and formaldehyde in the presence of a catalyst and heat. The specific formulation and curing process determines the characteristics of the resulting resin.

Resol resins exhibit a highly cross-linked, three-dimensional molecular structure. This structure arises from the excess formaldehyde used during their synthesis, which enables further cross-linking. This cross-linking is responsible for the resins’ thermosetting nature and exceptional heat resistance. The three-dimensional cross-linking in resol resins also imparts outstanding heat resistance. They can withstand high temperatures without deforming or degrading. In addition, resol resins are known for their hardness and durability. They are resistant to wear, abrasion, and chemicals, making them suitable for demanding industrial applications.

Resol resins are matrix materials in composite manufacturing, particularly in producing high-performance composites. These composites find applications in aerospace, automotive, and sporting goods industries, where heat resistance and mechanical strength are critical. Resol resins are employed in foundry sand cores and molds. Their heat resistance allows for the creation of complex metal castings in foundry processes. Resol resins are used to produce electrical laminates and circuit boards, where their electrical insulating properties and heat resistance are essential for electronic applications. Resol resins function as high-performance adhesives in applications that require a strong bond and resistance to heat and chemicals. They are useful in industries such as automotive, aerospace, and construction.

What is Novolac

Novolac resins are a class of synthetic polymers derived from the reaction of phenol (or substituted phenols) with formaldehyde. The formation of novolac resins involves the reaction between phenol and formaldehyde, where the molar ratio of phenol to formaldehyde is typically less than 1:1. This limited formaldehyde availability prevents complete cross-linking, resulting in a thermoplastic resin with unique properties.

Unlike resol resins that have a highly cross-linked, three-dimensional structure, novolac resins have a more linear or branched structure. Novolac resins require the addition of a cross-linking agent, such as a curing agent or a hardener, to become thermosetting. The cross-linking agent bridges the polymer chains, thus resulting in increased strength and rigidity.

Compare Resol and Novolac

Novolac resins serve as key components in producing printed circuit boards (PCBs) and semiconductor packaging materials. Their electrical insulating properties and resistance to high temperatures make them ideal for these applications.

Novolac resins are used in the aerospace industry to manufacture composites, adhesives, and coatings that require heat resistance and structural integrity. They contribute to the lightweight yet durable materials used in aircraft and spacecraft. Moreover, in foundry applications, novolac resins serve as binders in creating sand cores and molds for metal casting. Their thermoplastic nature allows for easy reclamation and reuse of sand.

Similarities Between Resol and Novolac

  • Resol and novolac resins both belong to the phenolic resin family.
  • Both resins utilize phenol and formaldehyde as primary raw materials.

Difference Between Resol and Novolac


Resol resins are a subset of phenolic resins characterized by their highly cross-linked, three-dimensional structure and are formed in an alkaline environment. On the other hand, novolac resins are a subset of phenolic resins characterized by linear or lightly branched structures. They are formed in an acidic environment, often using a catalyst.

Chemical Structure         

Resol resins have a cross-linked, three-dimensional structure, while novolac resins exhibit a linear or lightly branched chemical structure.


While resol resins feature a high degree of cross-linking, novolac resins feature a lower level of cross-linking.

Rigidity and Hardness   

Resol resins offer high rigidity and hardness when cured, while novolac resins provide relatively lower rigidity and hardness when cured.

Curing Temperature      

Resol resins typically require higher curing temperatures, but novolac resins can cure at lower temperatures.


Moreover, resol resins are less flexible, whereas novolac resins have higher flexibility.


Resol resins find applications in phenolic laminates, brake linings, and abrasive products, whereas novolac resins are commonly used in adhesives, coatings, and specific molding compounds.


In conclusion, the main difference between resol and novolac is that resol resins are highly cross-linked and suitable for high-temperature applications, while novolac resins have a more flexible nature and are used in applications where reprocessing or lower heat resistance is required.


1. “Novolac Phenolic Resin – An Overview.” Science Direct.

Image Courtesy:

1. “NovolakCresol” By Smokefoot – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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