When we go to the bathroom, we may not realize it, but we are getting rid of something that has a lot of uses in our society. Our urine contains urea, which is a very common by-product in urine, and it is very useful to our world. The users number in the hundreds almost, and we flush it away several times per day.
Urea is used to get nitrogen into the soil as a fertilizer in farming. It is used in various lotions because it helps to hydrate our skin. It can reduce the amount of pollutants in our diesel fuel, it is used in fuel cells and the manipulation of proteins in the lab. Long story short, it is everywhere and used everywhere, and most of us don’t even realize it.
There was a period when it was thought that urea was only produced by an organism, which limited the amount of urea that could be harvested for uses. That all changed when Friedrich Wohler, a chemist with an idea came along. He was very well-known in the 19th century, and he was working away to create ammonium cyanate but he was having a great deal of difficulties doing it.
Every time he did his experiments, all he got was an impure white powder. He worked with various chemicals to find the right solution, even using lead, and eventually he combined a lead cyanate with ammonium hydroxide. This time, he once again got the useless white powder but it was pure, and that gave him an idea of what it was.
Once he began to do various tests, he found out that he had essentially created synthetic pee. This made him, by accident, the first person in human history to create synthetic urine (learn how to choose one), and it would have a lasting impact for many years to come. While Wohler had been working on vitalism with his combinations, he ended up finding something much greater, and much more important, and most of us don’t even realize we not only pee it away every day, but use it every day in a multitude of products.