Ask Difference

Urea vs. Thiourea — What's the Difference?

By Fiza Rafique & Urooj Arif — Published on June 30, 2024
Urea is an organic compound with the formula CO(NH2)2, widely used as a fertilizer and in medical applications, whereas thiourea is a similar compound, CS(NH2)2, used in gold extraction and as a reagent in organic synthesis.
Urea vs. Thiourea — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Urea and Thiourea


Key Differences

Urea, with its chemical formula CO(NH2)2, is a significant nitrogen-release fertilizer, offering a high nitrogen content, which makes it popular in agriculture to promote plant growth efficiently. On the other hand, thiourea, characterized by its formula CS(NH2)2, substitutes oxygen in urea with sulfur, altering its properties and uses.
The production of urea involves the synthetic combination of ammonia and carbon dioxide under high pressure and temperature, a process that capitalizes on its wide range of applications, from agriculture to the chemical industry. Conversely, the synthesis of thiourea typically involves the reaction of hydrogen sulfide with calcium cyanamide or the reaction of ammonia with carbon disulfide, showcasing its specialized use in industries that require specific chemical reactivities, such as the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and pesticides.
While urea is predominantly recognized for its role in fertilization due to its ability to increase the nitrogen content in soil, thereby enhancing crop yield, thiourea’s applications are more specialized, focusing on sectors like metallurgy for metal extraction and in organic laboratories as a catalyst and reagent. This distinction underscores urea’s broad utility across various industries versus thiourea’s targeted use in specific chemical processes.
In terms of environmental impact, urea can contribute to water pollution through runoff, leading to eutrophication in water bodies. It's important for its application to be managed carefully in agricultural settings. Thiourea, while useful in its applications, poses potential health risks, including being classified as a possible human carcinogen, which necessitates careful handling and usage in industrial and laboratory environments.
Despite their structural similarities, the functional difference between the oxygen atom in urea and the sulfur atom in thiourea gives rise to distinct chemical behaviors and applications. Urea’s widespread use in agriculture and the pharmaceutical industry contrasts with thiourea’s specialized applications in chemical synthesis and metal extraction, illustrating how small changes in molecular structure can lead to significant differences in functionality and us

Comparison Chart

Primary Use

Fertilizer, medical applications
Gold extraction, organic synthesis

Chemical Structure

Carbon atom double-bonded to an oxygen atom
Carbon atom double-bonded to a sulfur atom

Industrial Application

Agriculture, pharmaceuticals
Metallurgy, pharmaceuticals, organic labs

Environmental Impact

Potential for water pollution
Possible human carcinogen, environmental concerns


Ammonia and carbon dioxide
Hydrogen sulfide with calcium cyanamide or ammonia with carbon disulfide


Highly soluble in water
Soluble in water, but less so than urea

Boiling Point

Decomposes before boiling
Decomposes before boiling

Health and Safety

Generally safe with proper use
Requires careful handling due to toxicity

Compare with Definitions


A nitrogen-rich compound used as a fertilizer.
Urea is spread in agricultural fields to enhance soil fertility.


Made from hydrogen sulfide and calcium cyanamide.
The synthesis of thiourea involves specific chemical reactions.


Produced from ammonia and carbon dioxide.
Urea is manufactured in large quantities for industrial use.


Serves as a reagent in organic synthesis.
It's used to synthesize pharmaceuticals.


Highly soluble in water, aiding in its agricultural application.
Urea dissolves easily for irrigation purposes.


Less soluble in water compared to urea.
Thiourea's solubility affects its application in various industries.


Can lead to water pollution if overused.
Excessive urea application results in runoff affecting water quality.


A sulfur-containing compound used in gold extraction.
Thiourea is utilized to leach gold from ores.


Used in the medical field for skin treatments.
Urea-based creams soften and moisturize the skin.


Classified as a possible human carcinogen.
Handling thiourea requires safety precautions in labs.


A water-soluble compound, CO(NH2)2, that is the major nitrogenous end product of protein metabolism and is the chief nitrogenous component of the urine in mammals and certain other animals. Also called carbamide.


A lustrous white crystalline compound, CH4N2S, the sulfur analog of urea, used as a developer in photography and photocopying and in various organic syntheses. Also called thiocarbamide.


A water-soluble organic compound, CO(NH2)2, formed by the metabolism of proteins and excreted in the urine.


(organic compound) Any of a class of compounds based on NH2-CS-NH2, formally derived from urea by replacing the oxygen atom with sulfur, used in photography as a fixing agent, in inorganic synthesis, and in medicine as an antithyroid drug.


Any N-substituted derivative of urea, with the general formula (R1R2N)CO(NR3R4).


The chief solid component of mammalian urine; synthesized from ammonia and carbon dioxide and used as fertilizer and in animal feed and in plastics

Common Curiosities

How does thiourea differ from urea in terms of chemical structure?

Thiourea contains sulfur instead of the oxygen found in urea.

Can urea contribute to environmental issues?

Yes, it can cause water pollution and eutrophication if not managed properly.

What is urea primarily used for?

As a high-nitrogen fertilizer and in medical dermatological products.

What are the main applications of thiourea?

In gold extraction processes and as a reagent in organic synthesis.

Is thiourea considered safe?

It is classified as a possible human carcinogen and requires careful handling.

How does the solubility of urea affect its use?

Its high water solubility makes it effective for agricultural and medical applications.

What role does thiourea play in gold mining?

It acts as a leaching agent to extract gold from ores.

What distinguishes urea's and thiourea's environmental impacts?

Urea primarily poses risks to water quality, while thiourea is a health hazard due to its toxicity and potential carcinogenic properties.

How is urea produced?

Through the synthetic combination of ammonia and carbon dioxide.

What safety measures are recommended for handling thiourea?

Use protective equipment and follow safety guidelines due to its toxic nature.

Why is urea important in agriculture?

It significantly increases soil nitrogen content, enhancing crop yield.

What industries use thiourea?

Metallurgy, pharmaceuticals, and laboratories focused on organic chemistry.

What precautions should be taken with urea to prevent environmental damage?

Proper application rates and timing to reduce runoff and pollution.

Can thiourea be used in pharmaceuticals?

Yes, as a reagent in synthesizing various pharmaceutical compounds.

How do urea and thiourea contribute to their respective fields?

Urea is vital for boosting agricultural productivity and skin health, while thiourea is crucial in specific industrial processes and chemical synthesis.

Share Your Discovery

Share via Social Media
Embed This Content
Embed Code
Share Directly via Messenger

Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

Popular Comparisons

Trending Comparisons

New Comparisons

Trending Terms