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Manufacture And Applications Of Melamine

Melamine can be manufactured from dicyandiamide, hydrogen cyanide, or urea. Modern commercial production of melamine typically employs urea as a starting material. Urea is broken down to cyanuric acid, which then can be reacted to form melamine. Its most important reaction is that with formaldehyde, forming melamine-formaldehyde resins of high molecular weight. These compounds form under the influence of heat and then become fixed into an insoluble and infusible mold; this process is known as thermosetting. Melamine-based thermoset materials contain cross-linked polymers, which make the fixed molds strong and durable. Usually formulated with fillers and pigments, melamine resins can be molded into dishes, containers, utensils, handles, and the like or used as laminating agents or coating materials for wood, paper, and textiles. Formica and Melmac are well-known trade names for products based on melamine resins.

Melamine has also been incorporated into a variety of flame-retardant materials. This application is based on the compound’s high nitrogen content. When exposed to heat, melamine degrades and releases nitrogen. The freed nitrogen takes the place of oxygen in the surface air surrounding the material, which prevents the material from burning. Butylated melamine resins, made by incorporating butyl alcohol into the melamine–formaldehyde reaction mixture, are fluids used as ingredients of paints and varnishes. A copolymer containing melamine, formaldehyde, and sodium bisulfite produces a foam with sound-absorbing and flame-retardant properties. The foam has a notably hard microbubble structure, which gives it an abrasive quality that has been utilized in the development of cleaning products.

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