Chemical properties of melamine

Written by carlos mano
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Chemical properties of melamine
Chemistry of Melamine (chemistry image by david hughes from Fotolia.com)

Melamine is a chemical with a lot of interesting properties. It has been in the news recently because is has turned up in some Chinese products where it definitely does not belong. Melamine is toxic, so it does not belong in human or pet food or in anything that babies or children might come in contact with.

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Composition

Malemine is two-thirds nitrogen (by weight), so when it is added to paint or resins, it forms a very effective fire retardant. When it is burnt, it releases nitrogen gas, which blocks the oxygen from the flame and puts out the fire.

Uses

Melamine is a component in Formica countertops, dry erase boards, coloured plastics, and yellow pigment 150. It is also used in a special very high-grade, high-resistance concrete. The super-concrete is called sulfonated melamine formaldehyde (SMF). It has reduced water content, increased fluidity and workability, higher mechanical strength, longer life, and improved resistance to aggressive environments.

Misconception

Many people think (especially after the Chinese problems) that the name melamine is based on the Greek root "mela-," meaning black. This is the root of the pigment melanin and the hormone melatonin, but not of the chemical melamine. Melamine is actually a German coinage formed by combining the two chemical words "melam" and "amine."

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