Urea is also known as carbamide, especially in the recommended International Nonproprietary Names (rINN) in use in Europe. For example, the medicinal compound hydroxyurea (old British Approved Name) is now hydroxycarbamide. Other names include carbamide resin, isourea, carbonyl diamide, and carbonyldiamine.
|Molar mass||60.07 g/mol|
|Appearance||white odourless solid|
|Density and phase||1.33·10³ kg/m³ , solid|
|Solubility in water||108 g/100 ml (20 °C)
167 g/100 ml (40 °C)
251 g/100 ml (60 °C)
400 g/100 ml (80 °C)
733 g/100 ml (100 °C)
|Melting point||132.7 °C (406 K)
|Chiral rotation [α]D||Not chiral|
|Viscosity||? cP at ? °C|
|Critical relative humidity||81% (20°C)
|Heat of solution in water||-57,8 cal/g (endothermic)|
|Nitrogen content||46.6 %N|
|Molecular shape||trigonal planar|
|Coordination geometry||- - -|
|Dipole moment||4.56 p/D|
|Flash point||? °C|
|R/S statement||R: ? S: ?|
|Supplementary data page|
|Structure & properties||n, εr, etc.|
|Thermodynamic data||Phase behaviour
Solid, liquid, gas
|Spectral data||UV, IR, NMR, MS|
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for
materials in their standard state (at 26°C, 100 kPa)
Infobox disclaimer and references
It was the first organic compound to be artificially synthesized from inorganic starting materials, thus dispelling the concept of vitalism.
Urea was discovered by Hilaire Rouelle in 1773. It was the first organic compound to be artificially synthesized from inorganic starting materials, in 1828 by Friedrich Wöhler, who prepared it by the reaction of potassium cyanate with ammonium sulfate. Although Woehler was attempting to prepare ammonium cyanate, by forming urea, he inadvertently disproved vitalism, the theory that the chemicals of living organisms are fundamentally different from inanimate matter, thus starting the discipline of organic chemistry.
This discovery prompted Wohler to write triumphantly to Berzelius:
"I must tell you that I can make urea without the use of kidneys, either man or dog. Ammonium cyanate is urea."
Urea is highly soluble and is therefore a efficient way for the human body to expell excess nitrogen. Due to extensive hydrogen bonding with water (up to six hydrogen bonds may form, two from oxygen atom and one from each hydrogen), it is very soluble and thus is also a good fertiliser.
The urea molecule is planar and retains its full molecular point symmetry. Each carbonyl oxygen atom accepts four N-H-O hydrogen bonds, a very unusual feature for such a bond type. This dense (and energetically quite favourable) hydrogen bond network is probably established at the cost of efficient molecular packing: the structure is quite open, the ribbons forming tunnels with square cross-section.
The individual atoms that make up a urea molecule come from carbon dioxide, water, aspartate and ammonia in a metabolic pathway known as the urea cycle, an anabolic process. This expenditure of energy is necessary because ammonia, a common metabolic waste product, is toxic and must be neutralized. Urea production occurs in the liver and is under the regulatory control of N-acetylglutamate.
The urea cycle was originally known as the Krebs-Henseleit cycle after it was partially deduced by Hans Adolf Krebs and Kurt Henseleit in 1932. Its details were clarified in the 1940s as the roles of citrulline and argininosuccinate as intermediates were understood. In this cycle, amino groups donated by ammonia and L-aspartate are converted to urea, while L-ornithine, citrulline, L-argininosuccinate, and L-arginine act as intermediates.
Most organisms have to deal with the excretion of nitrogen waste originating from protein and amino acid catabolism. In aquatic organisms the most common form of nitrogen waste is ammonia, while land-dwelling organisms convert the toxic ammonia to either urea or uric acid. Generally, birds and saurian reptiles excrete uric acid, while the remaining species, including mammals, excrete urea. Remarkably, tadpoles excrete ammonia, and shift to urea production during metamorphosis. In veterinary medicine, Dalmatian breeds of dogs are noteworthy in that they excrete urea in the form of uric acid in the urine rather than in the urea form. This is due to a defect in one of the genes controlling expression of the conversion enzymes in the urea cycle.
Despite the generalization above, the pathway has been documented not only in mammals and amphibians, but in many other organisms as well, including birds, invertebrates, insects, plants, yeast, fungi, and even microorganisms.
Urea is essentially a waste product, but is vital for forming hypertonic (concentrated) urine. In the distal portions of the kidney collecting duct, urea is reintroduced into the kidney medulla to raise osmolarity. Afterwards, water flowing through the collecting tubule follows back into the body by osmosis through aquaporins.
Urea is dissolved in blood (in humans in a concentration of 2.5 - 7.5 mmol/liter) and excreted by the kidney in the urine.
Urea can be irritating to skin and eyes. Too high concentrations in the blood can cause damage to organs of the body. Low concentrations of urea such as in urine are not dangerous.
Repeated or prolonged contact with urea in fertiliser form on the skin may cause dermatitis. The substance also irritates the eyes, the skin and the respiratory tract. The substance decomposes on heating above melting point producing toxic gases. Reacts violently with strong oxidants, nitrites, inorganic chlorides, chlorites and perchlorates causing fire and explosion hazard
Urea is a nitrogen-containing chemical product which is produced on a scale of some 100,000,000 tonnes per year worldwide.
More than 90% of world production is destined for use as a fertilizer. Urea has the highest nitrogen content of all solid nitrogenous fertilizers in common use (46.4%) It therefore has the lowest transportation costs per unit of nitrogen nutrient.
Solid urea is marketed as prills or granules. The advantage of prills is that in general they can be produced more cheaply than granules which, because of their narrower particle size distribution have an advantage over prills if applied mechanically to the soil. Properties such as impact strength, crushing strength and free-flowing behaviour are particularly important in product handling, storage and bulk transportation.
Urea is produced commercially from two raw materials, ammonia and carbon dioxide. Large quantities of carbon dioxide are produced during the manufacture of ammonia from coal or from hydrocarbons such as natural gas and petroleum derived raw materials. This allows direct synthesis of urea from these raw materials.
The production of urea from ammonia and carbon dioxide takes place in an equilibrium reaction, with incomplete conversion of the reactants. The various urea processes are characterized by the conditions under which urea formation takes place and the way in which unconverted reactants are further processed.
While the second reaction is endothermic:
Both reactions combined are exothermic.
The process is also called the Bosch-Meiser urea process after its discoverers (1922).
Urea is used as a nitrogen release fertilizer as it hydrolyses back to 2NH2 and CO2 but its most common impurity (biuret,NH2-CO-NH-CO-NH2) must be present at less than 2% as it impairs plant growth. It is also used in many multi-component solid fertilizer formulations. Its action of nitrogen release is due to the conditions favouring the reagent side of the equilibriums which produce urea.
Urea is usually spread at rates of between 40 and 300 kg/ha, but actual spreading rates will vary according to farm type and region It is better to make several small to medium applications at intervals to minimise leaching losses and increase efficient use of the N applied compared with single heavy applications. During summer, Urea should be spread just before, or during rain to reduce possible losses from volatilisation (process where nitrogen is lost to the atmosphere as ammonium gas). Urea should not be mixed for any length of time with other fertilisers as problems of physical quality may result.
Because of the high N concentration in Urea, it is very important to achieve an even spread. Make sure that the application equipment has been correctly calibrated and is properly used. Do not drill on contact with or close to seed, due to the risk of germination damage. Urea dissolves in water for application as a spray or through irrigation systems.
In grain and cotton crops, urea is often applied at the time of the last cultivation before planting. It should be applied into, or be incorporated into the soil. In high rainfall areas and on sandy soils (where nitrogen can be lost through leaching) and where good in-season rainfall is expected, urea can be side or top-dressed during the growing season. Top-dressing is also popular on pasture and forage crops. In sugarcane, urea is side-dressed after planting, and applied to each ratoon crop.
In irrigated crops, urea can be applied dry to the soil, or dissolved and applied through the irrigation water. Urea will dissolve in its own weight in water, but it becomes increasingly difficult to dissolve as the concentration increases. Dissolving urea in water is endothermic, causing the temperature of the solution to fall when urea dissolves.
As a practical guide, when preparing urea solutions for fertigation (injection into irrigation lines), dissolve nomore than 30 kg urea per 100 L water.
In foliar sprays, urea concentrations of 0.5 – 2.0 % are often used in horticultural crops. As urea sprays may damage crop foliage, specific advice should be sought before use. Low biuret grades of urea should be usedif urea sprays are to be applied regularly or to sensitive horticultural crops.
Like most Nitrogen products, Urea absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. Therefore it is should be stored either in closed/sealed bags on pallets, or if stored in bulk, covered with a tarpaulin. As with most solid fertilisers, it should also be stored in a cool, dry, well ventilated area.
Urea has the ability to form 'loose compounds' with many organic compounds. The organic compounds are held in channels formed by interpenetrating helices comprising of hydrogen bonded urea molecules. This behaviour can be used to separate mixtures and has been used in the production of aviation fuel and lubricating oils. As the helices are interconnected all helices in a crystal must have the same 'handedness'. This is determined when the crystal is nucleated and can thus be forced by seeding. This property has been used to separate racemic mixtures.
Urea is a powerful protein denaturant. This property can be exploited to increase the solubility of some proteins. For this application it is used in concentrations up to 10 M. Urea is used to effectively disrupt the noncovalent bonds in proteins. Urea is an ingredient in the synthesis of urea nitrate. Urea nitrate is also a high explosive very similar to ammonium nitrate, however it may even be more powerful because of its complexity. VOD is 11,000 fps to 15,420 fps.
Isotopically-labeled urea (carbon 14 - radioactive, or carbon 13 - stable isotope) is used in the Urea breath test, which is used to detect the presence of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori, a bacterium) in the stomach and duodenum of humans. The test detects the characteristic enzyme urease, produced by H. pylori, by a reaction that produces ammonia from urea. This increases the pH (reduces acidity) of the stomach environment around the bacteria.
Similar bacteria species to H. pylori can be identified by the same test in animals (apes, dogs, cats - including big cats).
Urea in textile laboratories are frequently used both in dyeing and printing as an important auxiliary which provides solubility to the bath and retains some moisture which is required for the dying or printing process. Note that euric acid is NOT approved for internal consumption.
Ureas or carbamides are a class of chemical compounds sharing the same functional group RR'N-CO-NRR' based on a carbonyl group flanked by two organic amine residues. They can be accessed in the laboratory by reaction of phosgene with primary or secondary amines. Example of ureas are the compounds carbamide peroxide, allantoin and Hydantoin. Ureas are closely related to biurets and structurally related to amides, carbamates, diimides, carbodiimides and thiocarbamides.
Urea reacts with alcohols to form urethanes. Urea reacts with malonic esters to make barbituric acids.
The content of this section is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License (local copy). It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Urea" modified August 27, 2007 with previous authors listed in its history.