Thiourea vs. Urea

What's the Difference?

Thiourea and urea are both organic compounds that contain the carbonyl group, but they differ in the presence of sulfur. Thiourea has a sulfur atom in place of one of the oxygen atoms found in urea. This substitution gives thiourea unique properties and applications. While urea is commonly used as a fertilizer and in the production of plastics, thiourea finds its use in various industries such as pharmaceuticals, photography, and textile processing. Additionally, thiourea has a higher toxicity compared to urea, making it necessary to handle with caution. Overall, the presence of sulfur in thiourea distinguishes it from urea and gives it distinct properties and applications.


SynonymsThiocarbamide, ThiocarbonylCarbamide
Chemical FormulaCH4N2SCH4N2O
Molecular Weight76.12 g/mol60.06 g/mol
AppearanceWhite crystalline solidWhite crystalline solid
SolubilitySoluble in water, ethanol, and acetoneSoluble in water, ethanol, and acetone
UsesUsed in pharmaceuticals, photography, and as a reagent in organic synthesisUsed in fertilizers, cosmetics, and as a reagent in organic synthesis

Further Detail


Thiourea and urea are two organic compounds that share some similarities but also possess distinct attributes. Both compounds are widely used in various industries and have important applications in different fields. In this article, we will explore the characteristics, properties, and applications of thiourea and urea, highlighting their similarities and differences.

Chemical Structure

Thiourea, also known as thiocarbamide, has the chemical formula CH4N2S. It consists of a carbonyl group (C=O) attached to a sulfur atom (S), which is further bonded to two amino groups (NH2). On the other hand, urea has the chemical formula CH4N2O and consists of two amino groups (NH2) attached to a carbonyl group (C=O). The structural difference between the two compounds lies in the position of the sulfur atom in thiourea and the oxygen atom in urea.

Physical Properties

Thiourea is a white crystalline solid with a melting point of around 170°C. It is soluble in water, ethanol, and other polar solvents. Urea, on the other hand, is also a white crystalline solid but has a lower melting point of approximately 132°C. It is highly soluble in water, making it a versatile compound for various applications.

Chemical Properties

Thiourea exhibits unique chemical properties due to the presence of the sulfur atom. It is a versatile compound that can act as a reducing agent, a complexing agent, and a catalyst in various chemical reactions. Thiourea is commonly used in the synthesis of pharmaceuticals, dyes, and pesticides. Urea, on the other hand, is not a reducing agent but is known for its ability to form hydrogen bonds with water molecules, making it an excellent compound for use in fertilizers and as a protein denaturant.


Thiourea finds applications in several industries. It is widely used in the pharmaceutical industry for the synthesis of drugs, including antiviral and antidiabetic medications. Thiourea is also utilized in the textile industry as a dyeing auxiliary and as a component in photographic developers. Additionally, it has applications in the mining industry for the extraction of gold and silver from ores.

Urea, on the other hand, has diverse applications. It is primarily used as a nitrogen fertilizer in agriculture due to its high nitrogen content. Urea is also employed in the production of resins, adhesives, and plastics. In the medical field, urea is used as a diuretic and in the treatment of certain skin conditions. Furthermore, it serves as a raw material for the synthesis of various organic compounds.

Toxicity and Safety

Thiourea is considered to be moderately toxic and can cause irritation to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system. Prolonged exposure to high concentrations of thiourea may lead to more severe health effects. Urea, on the other hand, is relatively safe for human use. It is classified as a low-toxicity compound and is commonly used in cosmetic and personal care products.

Environmental Impact

Both thiourea and urea can have environmental implications. Thiourea is toxic to aquatic organisms and can persist in the environment, potentially causing harm to ecosystems. Urea, when used as a fertilizer, can contribute to water pollution through runoff, leading to eutrophication in bodies of water. However, proper management and application techniques can minimize these environmental impacts.


In conclusion, thiourea and urea are two organic compounds with distinct attributes and applications. Thiourea, with its sulfur atom, exhibits unique chemical properties and finds applications in pharmaceuticals, textiles, and mining. Urea, on the other hand, is primarily used as a nitrogen fertilizer in agriculture and has diverse applications in various industries. Understanding the properties and applications of these compounds is crucial for their safe and effective use in different fields.

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