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Urea-formaldehyde, also known as urea-methanal, so named for its
common synthesis pathway and overall structure,
is a
non-transparent thermosetting resin or plastic, made from urea and
formaldehyde heated in the presence of a mild base such as ammonia
or pyridine. These resins are used in adhesives, finishes, MDF, and
molded objects.
It was first synthesized in 1884 by Hlzer, who was working with
Bernhard Tollens.
In 1919, Hanns John (18911942) of Prague,
Czechoslovakia obtained the first patent for urea-formaldehyde resin.
Urea-formaldehyde resin's attributes include high tensile strength, flexural modulus, and heat distortion temperature,
low water absorption, mould shrinkage, high surface hardness, elongation at break, and volume resistance.
Index of Refraction = 1.54
Chemical structure
The chemical structure of UF resins can be described as that of polymethylene. This description leaves the details of
the structure undetermined, which can vary linearly and branched. These are grouped by their average molar mass
and the content of different functional groups. Changing synthesis conditions of the resins give good designing
possibilities for the structure and resin properties.
Approximately 1 million metric tons of urea-formaldehyde are produced every year. Over 70% of this production is
then put into use by the forest industry products. Produces a great resin for bonding particleboard (61%), medium
density fiberboard (27%), hardwood plywood (5%), and laminating adhesive (7%).
General uses
A range of objects made from urea formaldehyde
Urea-Formaldehyde is everywhere and used in many manufacturing
processes due to its useful properties. Examples include decorative
laminates, textiles, paper, foundry sand molds, wrinkle resistant
fabrics, cotton blends, rayon, corduroy, etc. It is also used to glue wood
together. Urea formaldehyde was commonly used when producing
electrical appliances casing (e.g. desk lamps).
The product is widely chosen as an adhesive resin due to its high
reactivity, good performance, and low price. Urea-formaldehyde resin
is a chemical combination of urea and formaldehyde. Amino resins are
considered a class of thermosetting resins of which urea-formaldehyde resins make up 80% produced globally.
Examples of amino resins include automobile tires in order to improve the bonding of rubber to tire cord, paper for
improving tear strength, molding electrical devices, molding jar caps, etc.
Agricultural use
Urea formaldehyde is also used in agriculture as a controlled release source of nitrogen fertilizer. Urea
formaldehydes rate of decomposition into CO
2 and NH
3 is determined by the action of microbes found naturally in most soils. The activity of these microbes, and,
therefore, the rate of nitrogen release, is temperature dependent. The optimum temperature for microbe activity is
approximately 70-90F (approx 20-30C).
Urea-formaldehyde foam insulation
Urea-formaldehyde insulation
Urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) dates back to the 1930s
and made a synthetic insulation with R-values near 5.0 per inch. It is
basically a foam, like shaving cream that is easily injected into walls
with a hose. It is made by using a pump set and hose with a mixing gun
to mix the foaming agent, resin and compressed air. The fully
expanded foam is pumped into areas in need of insulation. It becomes
firm within minutes but cures within a week. UFFI is generally spotted
in homes built before the 1970s; one should look in basements, crawl
spaces, attics, and unfinished attics. Visually it looks like oozing liquid
that has been hardened. Over time, it tends to vary in shades of
butterscotch but new UFFI is a light yellow color. Early forms of UFFI tended to shrink significantly. Modern UF
insulation with updated catalysts and foaming technology have reduced shrinkage to minimal levels (between 2-4%).
The foam dries with a dull matte color with no shine. When cured, it often has a dry and crumbly texture.
Safety concerns
Urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) was used extensively in the 1970s. Homeowners used UFFI as a wall
cavity filler at the time in order to conserve energy. In the 1980s, concerns began to develop about formaldehyde
vapor emitted in the curing process, as well as from the breakdown of old foam. Emission rates exceeding 3.0 - 5.0
parts per million (ppm) cause a variety of adverse health effects impacting the eyes, nose, and respiratory system.
Consequently, its use was discontinued. The urea-formaldehyde emissions decline over time and significant levels
should no longer be present in the homes today. Modern replacement options for UFFI include melamine
formaldehyde resin, low-emission UF insulation materials, and polyurethane.
UFFI was usually mixed at the location of use while constructing the homes walls. It was then injected inside the
walls, the curing process occurs, and the final product acts as an insulating agent. Because less information was
known about the toxic health effects of formaldehyde in the 1970s, extra formaldehyde was often added to the
mixture to ensure that the curing process would occur completely. Since the UFFI was not a well-sealed product
[open-celled foam], any excess formaldehyde in the insulation would off-gas into the home's living space. The early
UFFI materials were also affected by moisture and heat which compounded the offgassing concerns. When
temperature rises, residuals of formaldehyde contained in the insulation are released and migrate into indoor air.
Remedial actions to take when formaldehyde levels exceed recommended levels include sealing off the any outlets
for the vapors; sealing any cracks or openings in interior walls; removing any sources of water or moisture that come
in contact with the insulation; applying one or more layers of vapor-barrier paint; increasing the air exchange rate
with outside air in buildings that are tightly sealed; or covering walls with Mylar or vinyl paper. Aluminum foil is a
useful alternative for barricading vapors. Generally there is not an off-gassing concern with older UFFI insulation,
since those materials have already cured. Removal is a costly and tedious option for UFFI, and it requires the
installation of replacement insulation.
Health effects
Health effects occur when urea-formaldehyde based materials and products release formaldehyde into the air.
Generally there are no observable health effects from formaldehyde when air concentrations are below 1.0 ppm. The
onset of respiratory irritation and other health effects, and even increased cancer risk begins when air concentrations
exceed 3.0-5.0 ppm. This triggers watery eyes, nose irritations, wheezing and coughing, fatigue, skin rash, severe
allergic reactions, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty in breathing in some humans
(usually > 1.0 ppm). Occupants of UFFI insulated homes with elevated formaldehyde levels experienced systemic
symptoms such as headache, malaise, insomnia, anorexia, and loss of libido.Wikipedia:Citation needed Irritation of
the mucus membrane (specifically eyes, nose, and throat) was a common upper respiratory tract symptom related to
formaldehyde exposure. However when compared to control groups, the frequency of symptoms did not exceed the
controls except when it came to wheezing, difficult breathing, and a burning skin sensation. Controlled studies have
suggested that tolerance to formaldehyde's odor and irritating effects can occur over a prolonged exposure.
Wikipedia:Citation needed
[1] Uses Of Formaldehyde (http:/ / www.chm. bris. ac.uk/ webprojects2002/ robson/ uses_of_formaldehyde. htm)
[2] [2] See:
Tollens, B. (1884) "Ueber einige Derivate des Formaldehyds" (On some derivatives of formaldehyde), Berichte der Deutschen
Chemischen Gesellschaft, 17 : 653-659. On page 659 (http:/ / gallica. bnf. fr/ ark:/ 12148/ bpt6k906981/ f683. image. langEN), Tollens
mentions in passing: " , aus Harnstoff und Formaldehyd hat dagegen Dr. Hlzer ein festes, schwer lsliches Derivat erhalten." ( from
urea and formaldehyde, on the other hand, Dr. Hlzer obtained a solid, almost insoluble derivative.)
B. Tollens (1896) "Ueber den Methylen-Harnstoff" (http:/ / gallica. bnf. fr/ ark:/ 12148/ bpt6k90744c/ f331. image. langEN) (On
methylene-urea), Berichte der deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft, 29 (3) : 2751-2752.
Neither Hlzer nor Tollens realized that the urea and formaldehyde were polymerizing.
In 1896, Carl Goldschmidt investigated the reaction further. He also obtained an amorphous, almost insoluble precipitate; however, he didn't
realize that polymerization was occurring: he thought that two molecules of urea were combining with three molecules of formaldehyde:
Goldschmidt, Carl (1896) "Ueber die Einwirkung von Formaldehyd auf Harnstoff" (http:/ / gallica. bnf. fr/ ark:/ 12148/ bpt6k90744c/ f18.
image. langEN) (On the effect of formaldehyde on urea), Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, 29 (3) : 2438-2439.
Goldschmidt, C. (1897) "Ueber die Einwirkung von Formaldehyd auf Harnstoff," Chemiker-Zeitung, 21 (46) : 460.
Goldschmidt had suggested that the reaction might be used to measure urea, so in 1897, Hermann Thoms (1859-1931) of Berlin investigated
the reaction further: H. Thoms (1897) "ber Harnstoffbestimmung mittelst Formaldehyds" (http:/ / books. google. com/
books?id=-HJLAAAAMAAJ& pg=RA1-PA161#v=onepage& q& f=false) (On the determination of urea via formaldehyde), Berichte der
Deutschen Pharmaceutischen Gesellschaft, 7 : 161-168. On page 168, Thoms suggested that urea and formaldehyde might be forming a
polymer: "(vielleicht auch ein Polymeres dieser Zusammensetzung)" (perhaps also a polymer of this composition).
[3] [3] See:
H. John "Verfahren zur Herstellung von Kondensationsprodukten aus Formaldehyd und Harnstoff bzw. Thioharnstoff oder anderen
Harnstoffderivaten" (Process for the production of condensation products from formaldehyde and urea or thiourea or other urea
derivatives), Austrian Patent 78,251, October 9, 1919.
H. John, "Process for the manufacture of condensation products of formaldehyde and carbamide or carbamide derivatives," Great Britain
Patent 151,016, January 16, 1922.
Hanns John, "Manufacture of aldehyde condensation product capable of technical utilization," (http:/ / www. google. com/ patents/
US1355834) U.S. Patent 1,355,834, October 19, 1920.
Urea formaldehyde (Plastics Historical Society) (http:/ / www. plastiquarian. com/ index. php?id=68)
History of urea-formaldehyde: Chapter 1 of: Carl Meyer, Urea-Formaldehyde Resins (Reading, Massachusetts:
Addison-Wesley, 1979)
Urea-Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (http:/ / www. cmhc-schl. gc. ca/ en/ co/ maho/ yohoyohe/ inaiqu/
inaiqu_008. cfm)(Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation)
Indoor Air Quality: Formaldehyde (http:/ / www. epa. gov/ iaq/ formalde. html#Levels in Homes)(US
Environmental Protection Agency)
Formaldehyde.... its safe use in foundries (http:/ / www. hse. gov. uk/ pubns/ iacl88. htm) (UK Health and Safety
(United States Environmental Protection Agency) (http:/ / www. epa. gov/ iaq/ formalde. html)
(Environmental and Occupational Health Assessment Program|Connecticut Department of Public Health) (http:/ /
www. ct. gov/ dph/ lib/ dph/ environmental_health/ eoha/ pdf/ uffi. pdf)
(Consumer Product Safety Commission|Consumer Product Safety Commission) (http:/ / www. cpsc. gov/
cpscpub/ pubs/ 725. html)
(Forest Products Laboratory: USDA Forest Service) (http:/ / www. fpl. fs. fed. us/ documnts/ pdf1996/ conne96a.
[Dunky, M., Urea-formaldehyde (UF) adhesive resins for wood, International Journal of Adhesion and
Adhesives, 1998. (18:2).]
(Encyclop dia Britannica) (http:/ / www. britannica. com/ EBchecked/ topic/ 619659/ urea-formaldehyde-resin)
(PropEx.com) (http:/ / www. propex. com/ C_f_env_ureaform. htm)
(U.S. Dept. of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)) (http:/ / www. osha. gov/ SLTC/
formaldehyde/ )
Article Sources and Contributors
Article Sources and Contributors
Urea-formaldehyde Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?oldid=620965718 Contributors: AbbyKelleyite, Adrianturcato, Akhilarora, Ale jrb, Alynna Kasmira, Amandapanda55,
Antonio Lopez, Aris berd, Armanschwarz, Beetstra, Biscuittin, Burn, Bvv, C777, Charles Matthews, Chem-awb, ChemGardener, Chris the speller, Chrislk02, Closedmouth, Crzrussian, Cwkmail,
Edgar181, Feminismisfun, Flamejob, Geni, George Church, Godsquirrel, Hellbus, Heron, Hoppeduppeanut, I am One of Many, IPFrehley, IanOfNorwich, Ipdragon, Jimbarter, KDS4444, Kjkolb,
Lamro, Leveretth, Michel Awkal, Mike Rosoft, N3362, Neparis, Phy1729, Plastkemiforetagen, Profcar, RHaworth, RedHillian, Rjwilmsi, Rogerzilla, ScaldingHotSoup, Scienceenforcer,
Shaddack, Simon12, Slicky, Smalljim, Starryboy, Staszek Lem, Thatcher, Theopolisme, TomKonrad, Tomjohnson357, UBJ 43X, Uthbrian, Vanischenu, Voidxor, WSikkema, 98 anonymous
Image Sources, Licenses and Contributors
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