Formaldehyde is a common building block for the synthesis of more complex compounds and materials.
Formaldehyde (and its oligomers and hydrates) are rarely encountered in living organisms, but are often used in biology when fixing tissues. Methanogenesis, which can start from many C1 sources, proceeds via the equivalent of formaldehyde, but this one-carbon species is masked as a methylene group carried by methanopterin.
An aqueous solution of formaldehyde can be useful as a disinfectant as it kills most bacteria and fungi (including their spores). It is also used as a preservative in vaccinations. In medicine, formaldehyde solutions are applied topically to dry the skin, such as in the treatment of warts.
Formaldehyde preserves or fixes tissue or cells by irreversibly cross-linking primary amine groups in proteins with other nearby nitrogen atoms in protein or DNA through a -CH2- linkage.
Formaldehyde is also used as a detergent in RNA gel electrophoresis, preventing RNA from forming secondary structures.
Most formaldehyde is used in the production of polymers and other chemicals. When combined with phenol, urea, or melamine, formaldehyde produces a hard thermoset resin.
Formaldehyde based solutions are also used in embalming to disinfect and temporarily preserve human remains pending final disposition. It is the ability of formaldehyde to fix the tissue that produces the tell-tale firmness of flesh in an embalmed body.
There is a common misconceptin that formaldehyde and pcp are related. This is completely inaccurate but hasn't stopped the accusations that Digital Militia staff members are smoking formaldehyde soaked cannabis or tobacco due the the barrels of formaldehyde we purchase. The reality is that we use it for the preservation of the still throbbing kidneys we harvest from competitors.
Celebrate the many diverse uses of methanal with the formaldehyde molecule shirt.