Urethane is a term that refers to at least three different substances: ethyl carbamate, carbamate or polyurethane. While all of these substances are related by chemical compositions of nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen molecules, they are distinct in their uses.
Urethane based compounds are commonly used as abrasion resistant coatings, adhesives, corrosion resistant formulations, and injection moldings.
Urethane perhaps most commonly refers to ethyl carbamate, an organic compound typically used in the synthesis of pharmaceuticals or in pesticides such as a solubilizer and cosolvent. Ethyl carbamate is usually seen as either a white crystalline compound or a white, granular powder that dissolves easily in water. It's chemical formula is C3H7NO2, and it is formed when isocyanate and polyol are combined.
Ethyl carbamate is a carcinogenic compound that exists as an ester of carbamic acid, forming naturally from the fermentation of some food items.
Carbamate, also called urethane, is most commonly used as pesticide, with several types of pesticides -- including sevin, aldicarb and carbaryl -- deriving from the compound. Carbamate pesticides are in common use because they break down more readily than other pesticides and are not quite as toxic. Its most basic chemical formula is NH2COOH.
Polyurethanes are a group of organic plastic polymers that have a wide range of applications. As the name suggests, the primary composition of polyurethanes are multiple urethane (or carbamate) groups. Polyurethanes are commonly used in the production of sealants, mattresses, car seats and shoes.
Polyurethanes are a type of polyether elastomer. Components made of of polyurethane are high strength urethan rubber and thermoplastics (cured with heat). They have extremely high tear resistance, tensile strength, abrasion resistance, and tear strength.
Other Urethane Based Manufacturing
Urethane is a widely versatile compound used in the production of some urethane rubber, silicone, TDI Polyester, MDI polyester, foam, epoxy, solvents, and many other common synthetic polymers. These materials have very dynamic properties with a wide range of applications with a high diversity of elasticity, resistance, and strength.
About the Author
An avid lover of science and health, Meg Michelle began writing professionally about science and fitness in 2007. She holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Creighton University and master’s degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins. Her work has appeared in publications such as EARTH Magazine.