What Is Urethane?

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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.

Ethyl Carbamate

Urethane perhaps most commonly refers to ethyl carbamate, an organic compound typically used in the synthesis of pharmaceuticals or in pesticides as a solubilizer and cosolvent. Ethyl carbamate is usually seen as either white crystals or a white, granular powder that dissolves easily in water. It's chemical formula is C3H7NO2.


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 plastics 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.

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