Urea-formaldehyde, also known as urea-methanal, named so 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. Urea-formaldehyde resin's attributes include high tensile strength, flexural modulus and heat distortion temperature, low water absorption, mould, high surface hardness, elongation at break, and volume resistance.
Urea formaldehyde was commonly used when producing electrical appliances casing e.g. desk lamps. Urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI) started being used in the 1950s. In the 1980s, concerns began to develop about the toxic formaldehyde vapor emitted in the curing process, as well as from the breakdown of old foam. Consequently, its use was discontinued. Modern replacement options include melamine formaldehyde resin and polyurethane.
Urea formaldehyde is also used in agriculture as a controlled release source of nitrogen fertilizer.Urea formaldehyde’s rate of decomposition into CO2 and NH3 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°-90°F.