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What is Carbamide?

Karyn Maier
Updated: May 21, 2024

Carbamide is an organic compound commonly known as urea, the primary byproduct of nitrogen metabolism in mammals and amphibians. It is characterized as a water-soluble, colorless, and odorless granular substance in its pure state, but in the presence of moisture, it will give off a slight ammonia smell.

Synthesized from ammonia and carbon dioxide in the liver, carbamide travels to the kidneys via the blood, where it is excreted in urine. This compound can also be made artificially from inorganic materials. Friedrich Wöhler was the first to make this discovery when he accidentally created it from potassium cyanate and ammonium sulfate in 1828.

Although Wöhler had intended to synthesize ammonium cyanate and not carbamide, his discovery nonetheless proved invaluable. Prior to this event, the scientific community held that the biochemistry of living things differed from non-organic matter and could not be duplicated. Known as the principle of vitalism, this concept stemmed from the belief that non-living things lacked the vital force, or the unknown element that sparks life. In effect, Wöhler contributed to setting this theory aside and paved the way for the study of organic chemistry.

Carbamide is a diamide of carbonic acid since it contains two amide groups. In addition, its synthesis is completed through an anabolic process, which requires the utilization of small molecules from other agents. In this case, carbon dioxide, aspartate, ammonia, and water provide the metabolic pathway. This process, known as the urea cycle, is vital to the elimination of ammonia, which would otherwise accumulate in toxic amounts.

Since this substance is inexpensively produced from synthetic ammonia and carbon dioxide, it is manufactured on a wide scale for a variety of commercial uses. Being a rich source of nitrogen, the majority is made for the fertilizer industry. It is also highly water-soluble due to its ability to form multiple hydrogen bonds. Once applied to soil, the compound quickly reverts into ammonia and carbon dioxide through hydrolysis.

Carbamide has several other applications. In veterinary medicine, for instance, it is used as a topical antiseptic and a diuretic. It is also sometimes used to enhance the protein content of cattle and sheep feed.

In manufacturing, it is used to make urea-formaldehyde plastics and carbamide resin as an adhesive for laminated plywood and particleboard. It is also used to stabilize explosives and, when combined with barium hydroxide, to deter the effects of acid rain when applied to limestone monuments. The compound was once used as a flame retardant for clothing and to induce the glycation process needed for commercial baked goods to brown. It's known by several trade names, including isourea, carbonyl diamide, and carbonyldiamine.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Karyn Maier
By Karyn Maier
Contributing articles to All The Science is just one of Karyn Maier's many professional pursuits. Based in New York's Catskill Mountain region, Karyn is also a magazine writer, columnist, and author of four books. She specializes in topics related to green living and botanical medicine, drawing from her extensive knowledge to create informative and engaging content for readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon339363 — On Jun 22, 2013

I am with post 3 in wondering if my 20 percent carbamide is doing me any harm. How can I find out?

By anon275813 — On Jun 20, 2012

I also want to know how carbamide can lower pressure in the eyes.

By anon173465 — On May 07, 2011

what is its use regarding eyes?

By anon112188 — On Sep 19, 2010

What is the answer to question #4 regarding the use

carbamide for the treatment of glaucoma.

By anon106368 — On Aug 25, 2010

I just read from a doctor's journal that carbamide can reduce pressure in the eyes, like glaucoma. Is there any truth about that?

By anon96899 — On Jul 17, 2010

After reading this I'm not sure if I'm glad or sad that I bought Aquaphilic that contains carbamide. It definitely seems to absorb into my hands much better, which is why I bought it. I had used plain Aquaphilic and it worked OK, but when the store only had the one with carbamide they let me try it and it seems to work much better. But am I now absorbing bad things into my body?

By amjathf — On Feb 28, 2009

what is the iupac name of urea or carbamide?

By anon20769 — On Nov 06, 2008

what is a substitute of urea in ureaformaldehyde resin mfg.

Karyn Maier
Karyn Maier
Contributing articles to All The Science is just one of Karyn Maier's many professional pursuits. Based in New York's...
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