Dhristi JEE 2022-24

A Complete Overview of Melamine

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 “Triamino Triazine”.

 

Melamine Structure

The melamine structure is given below:

 

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The melamine structure represents the ring of carbon and nitrogen. Therefore, it is called a heterocyclic ring. This ring exists in a hexagonal form. The double bonds in this heterocyclic ring are arranged alternately. Therefore, it shows resonance. Three main groups are attached to 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 properties, 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, it is 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:

\[ 6 (NH_{2})_{2} CO  \rightarrow C_{3}H_{6}N_{6} + 6 NH_{3} + 3 CO_{2} \text{(Overall Reaction)} \]

First Step

\[ (NH_{2})_{2} CO  \rightarrow HNCO + NH_{3} \]

Urea is decomposed to cyanic acid and ammonia

Second Step

\[ 6 HNCO + 3 NH_{3}  \rightarrow C_{3}H_{6}N_{6} + 3 NH_{3} + 3 CO_{2} \]

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

 

Adulteration of Foods with Melamine

Melamine has been 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 gallbladder stones.

  • Melamine acts as a carcinogenic agent. It can cause gallbladder 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.

 

Health Impacts of Melamine

Melamine is a chemical compound that is mostly nitrogen-based and though it has a number of usages in the industrial sectors, there are a lot of negative health impacts of melamine. Since Melamine is a compound it can negatively affect the bodies of human beings and long exposure to melamine can affect the kidneys. People who have worked for long hours in close contact with melamine may get diagnosed with kidney stones. The type of kidney stones that may appear due to the long exposure to melamine is a bit different from the usual kidney stones. The reason for it can be explained with the help of the chemical composition melamine.


Specifications of the Product of Melamine

Melamine can be used to make kitchenware and other things that can be used as daily utensils. The products made of melamine are usually more durable than those that are made of ordinary plastic. The utensils made of melamine are considered indestructible under natural circumstances. They can last for a long time. Though consuming food from utensils made of melamine may not be a good idea. Melamine is considered a good grade compound. But some recent studies have found that hot food should not be consumed from any kitchenware that is made of melamine since it can increase the chance of getting kidney stones.


Are the Products Made of Melamine Safe to be Heated inside the Microwave?

Though melamine is considered a better alternative to plastic and glasses, a lot of health hazards are also associated with using kitchen utensils made of melamine. Moreover, kitchenware made of plastic and glasses can be used as an alternative to microwave bowls. But, anything that is made of melamine is not safe to use as a replacement for microwave-safe utensils. The complex chemical composition of melamine can get damaged easily when it comes into contact with excessive heat.


Melamine in Milk

Since melamine is a compound that is high in nitrogen, it is also added to milk. Melamine is mostly used in diluted milk so that food analysts cannot differentiate between the normal protein levels and the protein levels of the diluted milk in which melamine is incorporated. Since it is not possible for the common buyers to understand the difference between the protein level of normal milk and diluted milk added with melamine, the diluted milk often caters to the criterion that a particular food product needs to qualify in order to get sold by the common people.


Conclusion

The study notes on Melamine provide a comprehensive overview of the topic including what Melamine is, its structure, formula and properties, its applications, synthesis reaction, harmful health effects, etc. 

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are the Properties of Melamine?

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.

2. Explain the Synthesis Reaction of the Melamine.

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:

\[ 6 (NH_{2})_{2} CO  \rightarrow C_{3}H_{6}N_{6} + 6 NH_{3} + 3 CO_{2} \text{(Net Reaction)} \]

First Step

\[ (NH_{2})_{2} CO  \rightarrow HNCO + NH_{3} \]

Urea is decomposed to cyanic acid and ammonia

Second Step

\[ 6 HNCO + 3 NH_{3}  \rightarrow C_{3}H_{6}N_{6} + 3 NH_{3} + 3 CO_{2} \]

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

3. Are products made of melamine safe for children?

Melamine is often used to make various kitchen utensils and day to day utensils, though they are not suitable for children. There are other products available in the market specifically designed for children. Consuming food from plates made of melamine can affect the health of children negatively and it can also have long-term impacts. The utensils that are made of melamine are usually safe for multipurpose usages like storing items. But they should not be used as plates or bowls used for consuming food.


Get the full study notes on the topic of Melamine and many others from subject experts by registering on Vedantu.

4. What makes melamine popular?

Creating utensils with the help of melamine resin and other strengthening chemicals can make them durable. It is the most important reason that kitchen utensils made of melamine are widely available. Moreover, kitchen utensils that are made of melamine can be manufactured in different shapes, sizes and with different designs as well. The variety of colours that the kitchen utensils are made of and the multipurpose usages of those have made them very popular. The kitchenware made of melamine is aptly suited to serve cold foods and salads. Another most important reason for their popularity is that they are not easily breakable and hence they go a long way.

5. Are all the products made of melamine recyclable?

Melamine is a chemical compound and the products that are made of this particular chemical compound are not recyclable. The most important reason that can be mentioned while discussing the reasons is that the compound itself is not natural. Melamine is not available in nature. This particular chemical compound is made by mixing a lot of other strengthening chemical compounds and nitrogen. 


While creating this chemical compound, a lot of chemicals are emitted into the atmosphere and turn it into a toxic environment. That is why melamine cannot be considered an eco-friendly compound. Moreover, the products that are made of these particular chemical compounds cannot be transformed into something else or some other chemical compounds that are easily decomposed. If you are particular about using products in your daily lives that are eco-friendly and recyclable, then melamine is not an option for you.

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