Urea or carbamide 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 theurine of mammals. It is a colorless, odorless solid, highly soluble in water and practically non-toxic (LD50 is 15 g/kg for rat). Dissolved in water, it is neither acidic nor alkaline. The body uses it in many processes, the most notable one being nitrogen excretion. Urea is widely used in fertilizers as a convenient source of nitrogen. Urea is also an important raw material for the chemical industry.
The discovery by Friedrich Wöhler in 1828 that urea can be produced from inorganic starting materials was an important conceptual milestone in chemistry, as it showed for the first time that a substance previously known only as a byproduct of life could be synthesized in the laboratory without any biological starting materials, contradicting the widely held doctrine of vitalism.
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