Also known as carbamide, urea is an organic compound. In fact, urea is a waste produced after the body metabolizes protein. Hence, it is natural that this organic compound is produces when our liver breaks down amino acid or protein into simpler substances and subsequently the kidneys transfer the compound from our blood to the urine and excretes it from the body. In fact, any excessive nitrogen in the body is expelled via urea. Since urea is a very soluble substance, the process is very efficient. On an average, an individual excretes roughly 30 grams of urea each day, mainly via urine. Nevertheless, a very small amount of this organic chemical compound is also expelled from the body via perspiration. It is now possible to create synthetic urea both in solid and liquid forms. Urea forms an ingredient in animal feed, fertilizers, diuretics and many other substances.
Urea is a monochrome crystal organic compound and has a melting point of 132.7°C. This organic chemical compound is found in abundance in our urine.
Urea is present in very small amounts in our blood, lymph nodes, liver and serous fluids. It is also found in fish waste and several other lower species. This organic chemical compound is produced in the liver and is the end product of metabolism, especially protein. Urea nitrogen, which comprises mainly of the nitrogen present in our urine, is derived from the decomposition of the cells in our body, mostly proteins. These aside, urea is also present in the molds of fungi and also the leaves and seeds of several legumes and cereals.
As commercially manufactured urea contains very high nitrogen content, it is mainly used as fertilizers for agricultural purpose. In fact, urea is also known to work as a stabilizer in nitrocellulose explosives. In addition, urea is also a component of resins prepared synthetically.
This organic chemical compound is naturally produced in humans as well as many other mammals. It is also produced in amphibians and some fish species. French chemist Hillaire Rouelle is credited with discovering urea in 1773. It soon became the first chemical organic compound that was formulated and produced synthetically.
Urea easily dissolves in water as well as alcohol and is somewhat soluble in ether. The process used to obtain urea synthetically is known as Wöhler synthesis. German chemist Friedrich Wöhler is credited with designing this process in 1828 and hence it is named after him. In fact, Wöhler was the first person to produce urea synthetically.
Synthetic urea is made from ammonia and carbon dioxide (CO2). This organic chemical compound can be produced in the form of solid as well as liquid forms. In 1870, chemists invented a process to produce synthetic urea. The process involved, ammonium carbonate was dehydrated under high pressure and heat. In fact, even today this process is followed to produce synthetic urea. Since synthetic urea has several common uses, it is produced in high quantity.
Urea, an organic chemical compound, has several medical applications. It is utilized for treating arid/rough skin conditions such as eczema, corns, callus and psoriasis. In addition, urea is also used for treating a number of problems related to nails, for instance, ingrown nails. In addition, urea may also be used for facilitating the removal of dead tissues in some types of wounds, thereby helping in speedy healing. Urea is considered to be a keratolytic. This organic chemical compound helps the skin to retain moisture by dissolving/softening the horny substance known as keratin and holds the surface of the skin together. In addition, it works to remove the dead skin cells and facilitate the skin to retain more water, thereby keeping it moisturized.
Aside from the commercial applications of urea, this chemical compound is also used by physicians to detect diseases and disorders related to the kidneys, for instance kidney failure or the final stage of renal disease (also known as end-stage renal disease or ESRD). Doctors also use two tests – the blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and the urine urea nitrogen (UUN) to gauge the levels of urea nitrogen in the urine and blood. These tests are undertaken to examine whether the kidneys are functioning well. It is worth mentioning here that increased or decreased levels of urine always do not hint that there are problems with the kidneys. On the other hand, they possibly indicate dehydration and also whether the individual’s protein intake is high.
The large portion of urea manufactured artificially is utilized to produce fertilizers. Adding nitrogen to urea makes the compound water soluble and it is the most preferred ingredient for making lawn fertilizer. Synthetic urea is also used in industries and other commercial purposes – for instance to make animal feed, certain varieties of plastics, glues, dish washing machine detergents, toilet bowl cleaners, pesticides, hair coloring products and even diuretics.
Mammals produce urea when they eliminate ammonia, which is an extremely noxious substance for them. The supposed urea cycle is actually the process that involves formation of urea from ammonia. Like in the case of other animals, in humans too urea is a waste product that is released after the body has metabolized proteins ingested as foods. Subsequently, urea is carried through the bloodstream to the kidneys. The kidneys filter urea from the blood and pass it on to the urine. On an average, an adult male expels about 28 grams of urea daily.
In addition to this, there are numerous bacteria in the soil that release an enzyme known as urease, which is a hydrolytic enzyme that works to catalyze urea’s decomposition reaction when dissolved in water, forming one carbon dioxide molecule and two ammonia molecules.
It is worth mentioning here that roughly 90 percent of urea that is produced synthetically is utilized as fertilizers. When these fertilizers are added to soil, they provide the plants with nitrogen. For instance, low-biuret or less than 0.03 percent urea is utilized in the form of a foliar fertilizer. This type of fertilizer dissolves in water easily and is applied to the plants’ leaves, especially fruits and citrus.
Using urea fertilizer has a number of advantages as it provides high level of nitrogen to plants, which is necessary for the plants for metabolizing. The application of urea fertilizer to plants has a direct relation to the amount of leaves and stems of the plant that absorb light for undertaking photosynthesis. Moreover, nitrogen is also present in vitamins as well as proteins. Nitrogen also has a relation with the protein content of different cereals.
Over the years, urea has successfully become accustomed to various types of crops. Plants need fertilizers because the nitrogen content in the soil is greatly reduced after each harvest. Urea grains are added to the soil to replenish its nitrogen content. Besides, urea works well because it is loaded with different types of bacteria. You can apply urea to the soil during planting or even earlier.
However, it is important to ensure that you add appropriate amounts of urea to the soil. If urea is applied on the surface of the soil and if it does not mix with the soil properly the ammonia in the soil will vaporize and this loss is very significant. Usually, urea incorporates with the soil by appropriate application, irrigation or rainfall. When these are absent fertilizers will not mix with the soil and the effort will go in vain. Absence of adequate amounts of nitrogen in the plants is manifested in decreased number of leaves as well as a reduction in the plant’s photosynthesis activity.
Since ancient times, gardeners and cultivators have been practicing foliar fertilization, but in this case very little amount of fertilizer is required compared to what you need to supply to the soil, especially the micronutrients. Nevertheless, many international data show that low use of biuret urea also helps in another way. It actually reduces the amount of fertilizer you apply to the soil, without hampering the plant’s performance, size and even its fruit quality. Studies undertaken in Tucuman revealed that applying foliar urea in very little amounts is equally effective as applying urea grains to the soil. This corroborates the fact that application of fertilizers together with various other agrochemical applications aside from the effective fertilization program yields better results.
In addition to its use in fertilizers and medicine, urea is also present in plastics, adhesives, inks, resins, paper, finishes for textiles as well as metals. Urea is also combined with cattle feed and provides nitrogen to the animals. This is very important as it helps in protein formation.
Resins like urea-formaldehyde resin have various industrial applications, for instance they are used in the production of plywood. In addition, resins are also utilized in the manufacture of paints and cosmetics.