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How to write a Chemical Formula for a Compound?
A chemical formula is the representation of a substance by symbols. More importantly, it denotes the number of atoms of each element present in the compound. For example, the formula for Ferric oxide or Iron [III] oxide is Fe2O3, which implies that 2 atoms of Fe and 3 atoms of O are present in an electrically-neutral molecule of the compound. To write a chemical formula, one must know the symbols and valencies of the elements / radicals.
Example 1. Write the chemical formula for Calcium phosphate.
Valency of Calcium (Ca) = 2 ; Valency of Phosphate (PO4) = 3.
Interchanging their valencies and writing as subscripts,
formula for Calcium phosphate is Ca3(PO4)2.
Note that 3 calcium ion [Ca2+] and 2 phosphate ions [PO43-] are present in an electrically-neutral molecule of calcium phosphate [Ca3(PO4)2].
Example 2. Write the chemical formula for Zinc carbonate.
Valency of Zinc (Zn) = 2 ; Valency of Carbonate (CO3) = 2.
Interchanging their valencies and simplifying (on dividing by 2),
formula for Zinc carbonate is ZnCO3.
Note that 1 zinc ion [Zn2+] and 1 carbonate ion [CO32-] are present in an electrically-neutral molecule of zinc carbonate [ZnCO3].
Points to remember:
- When the subscript is 1, it is ignored.
- The radical is written in parenthesis when the subscript is 2 or greater.
- Whenever possible, subscripts are simplified by dividing by the highest common factor (HCF).
Practice Exercise for Chemistry Module on Chemical Formulae of Compounds-Advanced
Practice Exercise for Chemistry Module on Chemical Formulae of Compounds - Basic
Practice Exercise for Chemistry Module on Common Chemical Compounds