<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
C1 0.150 O 0.525 = Cl 0.150 0.150 O 0.525 0.150 = ClO 3.5

In this case, dividing by the smallest subscript still leaves us with a decimal subscript in the empirical formula. To convert this into a whole number, we must multiply each of the subscripts by two, retaining the same atom ratio and yielding Cl 2 O 7 as the final empirical formula.

In summary, empirical formulas are derived from experimentally measured element masses by:

  1. Deriving the number of moles of each element from its mass
  2. Dividing each element’s molar amount by the smallest molar amount to yield subscripts for a tentative empirical formula
  3. Multiplying all coefficients by an integer, if necessary, to ensure that the smallest whole-number ratio of subscripts is obtained

[link] outlines this procedure in flow chart fashion for a substance containing elements A and X.

A flow chart is shown that is composed of six boxes, two of which are connected together by a right facing arrow and located above two more that are also connected by a right-facing arrow. These two rows of boxes are connected vertically by a line that leads to a right-facing arrow and the last two boxes, connected by a final right facing arrow. The first two upper boxes have the phrases, “Mass of A atoms” and “Moles of A atoms” respectively, while the arrow that connects them has the phrase, “Divide by molar mass,” written below it. The second two bottom boxes have the phrases, “Mass of X atoms” and “Moles of X atoms” respectively, while the arrow that connects them has the phrase, “Divide by molar mass” written below it. The arrow that connects the upper and lower boxes to the last two boxes has the phrase “Divide by lowest number of moles” written below it. The last two boxes have the phrases, “A to X mole ratio” and “Empirical formula” respectively, while the arrow that connects them has the phrase, “Convert ratio to lowest whole numbers” written below it.
The empirical formula of a compound can be derived from the masses of all elements in the sample.

Determining a compound’s empirical formula from the masses of its elements

A sample of the black mineral hematite ( [link] ), an oxide of iron found in many iron ores, contains 34.97 g of iron and 15.03 g of oxygen. What is the empirical formula of hematite?

Two rounded, smooth black stones are shown.
Hematite is an iron oxide that is used in jewelry. (credit: Mauro Cateb)


For this problem, we are given the mass in grams of each element. Begin by finding the moles of each:

34.97 g Fe ( mol Fe 55.85 g ) = 0.6261 mol Fe 15.03 g O ( mol O 16.00 g ) = 0.9394 mol O

Next, derive the iron-to-oxygen molar ratio by dividing by the lesser number of moles:

0.6261 0.6261 = 1.000 mol Fe 0.9394 0.6261 = 1.500 mol O

The ratio is 1.000 mol of iron to 1.500 mol of oxygen (Fe 1 O 1.5 ). Finally, multiply the ratio by two to get the smallest possible whole number subscripts while still maintaining the correct iron-to-oxygen ratio:

2 ( Fe 1 O 1.5 ) = Fe 2 O 3

The empirical formula is Fe 2 O 3 .

Check your learning

What is the empirical formula of a compound if a sample contains 0.130 g of nitrogen and 0.370 g of oxygen?


N 2 O 5

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Deriving empirical formulas from percent composition

Finally, with regard to deriving empirical formulas, consider instances in which a compound’s percent composition is available rather than the absolute masses of the compound’s constituent elements. In such cases, the percent composition can be used to calculate the masses of elements present in any convenient mass of compound; these masses can then be used to derive the empirical formula in the usual fashion.

Determining an empirical formula from percent composition

The bacterial fermentation of grain to produce ethanol forms a gas with a percent composition of 27.29% C and 72.71% O ( [link] ). What is the empirical formula for this gas?

A picture is shown of four copper-colored industrial containers with a large pipe connecting to the top of each one.
An oxide of carbon is removed from these fermentation tanks through the large copper pipes at the top. (credit: “Dual Freq”/Wikimedia Commons)


Since the scale for percentages is 100, it is most convenient to calculate the mass of elements present in a sample weighing 100 g. The calculation is “most convenient” because, per the definition for percent composition, the mass of a given element in grams is numerically equivalent to the element’s mass percentage. This numerical equivalence results from the definition of the “percentage” unit, whose name is derived from the Latin phrase per centum meaning “by the hundred.” Considering this definition, the mass percentages provided may be more conveniently expressed as fractions:

27.29 % C = 27.29 g C 100 g compound 72.71 % O = 72.71 g O 100 g compound

The molar amounts of carbon and hydrogen in a 100-g sample are calculated by dividing each element’s mass by its molar mass:

27.29 g C ( mol C 12.01 g ) = 2.272 mol C 72.71 g O ( mol O 16.00 g ) = 4.544 mol O

Coefficients for the tentative empirical formula are derived by dividing each molar amount by the lesser of the two:

2.272 mol C 2.272 = 1 4.544 mol O 2.272 = 2

Since the resulting ratio is one carbon to two oxygen atoms, the empirical formula is CO 2 .

Check your learning

What is the empirical formula of a compound containing 40.0% C, 6.71% H, and 53.28% O?


CH 2 O

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Questions & Answers

who are the alchemist?
Victor Reply
alchemy science of transmutation. typically it is aim at tranforming lead to or other base metals to gold and the creation of the philosophers stone which in reality isn't a stone it's something priceless something we all need for coming times. don't be fooled
read Corinthians 5 verses 50 to the end of the chapter then read revelations chapter 2 verse 17
The word "Alchemy" comes from the forgotten name for Ancient Egypt, Khemmet. Khem was the name for the Egyptian Empire, but the actual land of Egypt was called Khemmet because the "T" on the end of a word denoted a physical location on Earth and not just an idea.
What's the mass number of carbon
Charlie Reply
first Faraday's law
mass number of carbon is 12.
wat d atomic number of oxygen
atomic number of oxygen is 8
which quantum number divides shell into orbitals?
Tomiwa Reply
what is atom
Desmond Reply
an atom is a smallest indivisible part of an element
an atom is the smallest part of an element that takes part in a chemical reaction
wat is neutralization
Dubem Reply
when any acid reacts with base to decrease it's acidity or vice-versa to form salt and solvent.. which is called neutralization
explain buffer
buffer is a solution which resists changes in pH when acid or alkali added to it..
hello, who is online
buffer is the solution which resist the change in pH by addition of small amount of acid or alkali to it
neutralisation is the process of mixing of a acid and a base to form water and corresponding salt
how to solve equation on this
Princewill Reply
what are the elent of ionic and covalent bonding
what is gases
Wesike Reply
Its one of the fundamental sate of matter alone side with liquid, solid and plasma
What is chemical bonding
To my own definitions. It's a unit of measurement to express the amount of a chemical substance.
Ozoaniehe Reply
What is mole
It's the unit of measurements used to express the amount of chemical substance.
What is pressure
Stellamaris Reply
force over area
force applied per unit area
force applied per unit area
Why does carbonic acid don't react with metals
Aditya Reply
Why does carbonic acid don't react with metal
Some metals will react depending on their Standard Electrode Potential. Carbonic acid is a very weak acid (i.e. a low hydrogen ion concentration) so the rate of reaction is very low.
sample of carbon-12 has a mass of 6.00g. How many atoms of carbon-12 are in the sample
Emokiniovo Reply
a sample of carbon-12 has a mass of 6.00g. How many atoms of carbon-12 are in the sample
Sharmin Reply
an object of weight 10N immersed in a liquid displaces a quantity of d liquid.if d liquid displaced weights 6N.determine d up thrust of the object
ugonna Reply
how human discover earth is not flat
Jason Reply
We don't fall off. If set off in any direction in a straight line and keep going. You'll end up back where you started.
earth is spherical
Also, every other planet is spherical as that is the most energy efficient shape. gravity pulls equally on all areas. Sphere.
Practice Key Terms 2

Get the best Chemistry course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, Chemistry. OpenStax CNX. May 20, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11760/1.9
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Chemistry' conversation and receive update notifications?