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What is Melamine?

Melamine is a very common term, used in a branch of polymer chemistry. Melamine is generally known for its properties for forming melamine-formaldehyde polymer, generally known as melamine polymer. Now let’s come to an important question, what is melamine? Melamine is a heterocyclic organic compound. It is represented as C3H6N6. The common name of melamine is cyanuramide. Some students write melamine as melamin, which is an incorrect spelling. The chemical name of melamine is “Triminotriazine”.


Melamine Structure

The melamine structure is given below:

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The melamine structure represents the ring of carbon and nitrogen. Therefore, called a heterocyclic ring. This ring exists in a hexagonal form. The double bonds in this heterocyclic ring are arranged alternately. Therefore, shows resonance. Three mine groups are attached to the carbon. These three amine groups increase the electron density on the carbon-nitrogen heterocyclic ring. 


Melamine Formula

The melamine chemical formula is C3H6N6. It represents that the molecule of melamine is composed of three atoms of carbon, six atoms of hydrogen, and six atoms of nitrogen. 


Melamine Properties

  • Melamine exists in a crystalline state.

  • Melamine is a colourless compound.

  • Melamine belongs to the family of a heterocyclic organic compound.

  • Melamine is a nitrogen-rich compound. 

  • The melamine derivatives possess flame retardant property, due to the release of nitrogen when burned.

  • Melamine reacts with formaldehyde and produces thermosetting plastic as a product.

  • Melamine produces harmful effects on the human body.

Images Showing Melamine Material

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Melamine Plate

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Melamine Boards

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Melamine powder (Melamine Raw Material)


Melamine Uses

  • Melamine is used in making thermosetting plastics.

  • Melamine is used in making dinnerware and kitchenware.

  • Melamine is used in making plywoods. 

  • Melamine is used in making melamine resins. Melamine resins are produced by mixing them with formaldehyde.

  • Melamine is used in making decorative laminates.

  • Melamine foam acts as a good sound insulator. Therefore, used in making soundproof material.

  • It is used in making sulfonated melamine formaldehyde (SMF).

Synthesis Reaction of Melamine

This reaction can be carried out by two different methods:

  • Catalysed gas phase

  • High-pressure liquid phase

The industrial method for the preparation of melamine is given below:

6 (NH2)2 CO → C3 H6 N6 + 6 NH3 + 3 CO2 (Overall reaction)


First Step

(NH2)2 CO → HNCO + NH3

Urea is decomposed to cyanic acid and ammonia


Second Step

6 HNCO + 3 NH3 → C3H6 N6 + 3 CO2 + 3NH3

Cyanic acid polymerises further cyanuric acid. This produced cyanuric acid combines with the released ammonia and forms melamine.


Adulteration of Foods with Melamine

Melamine is misused by mixing it in various food products (adulteration) since the 1950s. In the beginning, it was used as Non-Protein Nitrogen (NPN) for feeding the cattle. It was later discouraged, as the microbial process of producing protein from melamine was inefficient and toxic. Due to the release of ammonia.


Harmful Effects of Melamine

  • It can cause potential damage to the kidney.

  • It can cause both acute toxicity and chronic toxicity.

  • Melamine can cause reproductive damage.

  • It can lead to a kidney stone.

  • It can lead to gall bladder stone.

  • Melamine acts as a carcinogenic agent. It can cause gall bladder cancer.

Did you know?

  • Melamine is known as a magical eraser, as it is used in making cleaning products.

  • Melamine was used in various food products to increase the apparent food protein content.

  • Justus Von Liebig was the German chemist who synthesised melamine for the first time.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Question: What are the Properties of Melamine?

Answer: The properties of melamine are given below:

  • Melamine is a solid crystalline compound.

  • Melamine is a colourless chemical compound.

  • Melamine is a member of a heterocyclic organic compound family.

  • It is a nitrogen-rich organic compound. 

  • The derivatives of melamine possess flame retardant property, due to the release of nitrogen when burned.

  • Melamine produces thermosetting plastic, reacting with formaldehyde.

  • Melamine produces harmful effects on the human body.

Question: Explain the Synthesis Reaction of the Melamine.

Answer: There are two methods for the synthesis of the melamine:

This reaction can be carried out by two different methods:

  • Catalysed gas phase

  • High-pressure liquid phase

The industrial method reaction for the preparation of melamine is given below:

6(NH₂)₂ CO → C₃H₆ N₆ + 6NH₃ + 3CO₂ (Net Reaction)


First Step

(NH₂)₂ CO → HNCO + NH₃

Urea dissociates and forms cyanic acid and ammonia


Second Step

6HNCO + 3NH₃ → C₃H₆N₆ + 3CO₂ + 3NH₃

Cyanic acid polymerises to cyanuric acid. The produced cyanuric acid condenses with the released ammonia and forms melamine.

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