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 the urine of mammals. It is solid, colourless, and odorless (although the ammonia that it gives off in the presence of water, including water vapor in the air, has a strong odor). It is 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 synthesis of this organic compound by Friedrich Wöhler in 1828 from an inorganic precursor was an important milestone in the development of organic chemistry, as it showed for the first time that a molecule found in living organisms could be synthesized in the lab without biological starting materials (thus contradicting a theory widely prevalent at one time, called vitalism).
The terms urea and carbamide are also used for a class of chemical compounds sharing the same functional group RR'N—CO—NRR', namely a carbonyl group attached to two organic amine residues. Examples include carbamide peroxide, allantoin, and hydantoin. Ureas are closely related to biurets and related in structure to amides, carbamates, carbodiimides, and thiocarbamides.