Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Urea, a chemical indispensable for life

Urea is an organic compound with the chemical formula CO(NH2)2. The molecule has two NH2 groups joined by a carbonyl (C=O) functional group. Urea serves an important role in the metabolism of nitrogen-containing compounds by animals and is the main nitrogen-containing substance in the
urine of mammals. It is a colourless, odourless solid, highly soluble in water and practically non-toxic. The body uses it in many processes, the most notable one being nitrogen excretion. The average person excretes about 30 grams of urea a day, mostly through urine, but a small amount is also secreted in perspiration.

Synthetic versions of the chemical compound can be created in liquid or solid form. Urea is widely used in fertilizers as a convenient and indispensable source of nitrogen. Urea is also an important raw material for the chemical industry. It is used to produce some types of plastics, animal feed, glues, toilet bowl cleaners, dish washing machine detergents, hair colouring products, pesticides, and fungicides. Medicinally, it is used in barbiturates, dermatological products that re-hydrate the skin, and diuretics.

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