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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Calculate formula masses for covalent and ionic compounds
  • Define the amount unit mole and the related quantity Avogadro’s number Explain the relation between mass, moles, and numbers of atoms or molecules, and perform calculations deriving these quantities from one another

We can argue that modern chemical science began when scientists started exploring the quantitative as well as the qualitative aspects of chemistry. For example, Dalton’s atomic theory was an attempt to explain the results of measurements that allowed him to calculate the relative masses of elements combined in various compounds. Understanding the relationship between the masses of atoms and the chemical formulas of compounds allows us to quantitatively describe the composition of substances.

Formula mass

In an earlier chapter, we described the development of the atomic mass unit, the concept of average atomic masses, and the use of chemical formulas to represent the elemental makeup of substances. These ideas can be extended to calculate the formula mass    of a substance by summing the average atomic masses of all the atoms represented in the substance’s formula.

Formula mass for covalent substances

For covalent substances, the formula represents the numbers and types of atoms composing a single molecule of the substance; therefore, the formula mass may be correctly referred to as a molecular mass. Consider chloroform (CHCl 3 ), a covalent compound once used as a surgical anesthetic and now primarily used in the production of the “anti-stick” polymer, Teflon. The molecular formula of chloroform indicates that a single molecule contains one carbon atom, one hydrogen atom, and three chlorine atoms. The average molecular mass of a chloroform molecule is therefore equal to the sum of the average atomic masses of these atoms. [link] outlines the calculations used to derive the molecular mass of chloroform, which is 119.37 amu.

A table and diagram are shown. The table is made up of six columns and five rows. The header row reads: “Element,” “Quantity,” a blank space, “Average atomic mass (a m u),” a blank space, and “Subtotal (a m u).” The first column contains the symbols “C,” “H,” “C l” and a blank, merged cell that runs the width of the first five columns. The second column contains the numbers “1,” “1,” and “3” as well as the merged cell. The third column contains the multiplication symbol in each cell except for the last, merged cell. The fourth column contains the numbers “12.01,” “1.008,” and “35.45” as well as the merged cell. The fifth column contains the symbol “=” in each cell except for the last, merged cell. The sixth column contains the values “12.01,” “1.008,” “106.35,” and “119.37.” There is a thick black line below the number 106.35. The merged cell under the first five columns reads “Molecular mass.” To the left of the table is a diagram of a molecule. Three green spheres are attached to a slightly smaller black sphere, which is also attached to a smaller white sphere. The green spheres lie beneath and to the sides of the black sphere while the white sphere is located straight up from the black sphere.
The average mass of a chloroform molecule, CHCl 3 , is 119.37 amu, which is the sum of the average atomic masses of each of its constituent atoms. The model shows the molecular structure of chloroform.

Likewise, the molecular mass of an aspirin molecule, C 9 H 8 O 4 , is the sum of the atomic masses of nine carbon atoms, eight hydrogen atoms, and four oxygen atoms, which amounts to 180.15 amu ( [link] ).

A table and diagram are shown. The table is made up of six columns and five rows. The header row reads: “Element,” “Quantity,” a blank space, “Average atomic mass (a m u),” a blank space, and “Subtotal (a m u).” The first column contains the symbols “C,” “H,” “O,” and a merged cell. The merged cell runs the length of the first five columns. The second column contains the numbers “9,” “8,” and “4” as well as the merged, cell. The third column contains the multiplication symbol in each cell except for the last, merged cell. The fourth column contains the numbers “12.01,” “1.008,” and “16.00” as well as the merged cell. The fifth column contains the symbol “=” in each cell except for the last, merged cell. The sixth column contains the values: “108.09,” “8.064,” “64.00,” and “180.15.” There is a thick black line below the number 64.00. The merged cell under the first five columns reads “Molecular mass.” To the left of the table is a diagram of a molecule. Six black spheres are located in a six-sided ring and connected by alternating double and single black bonds. Attached to each of the four black spheres is one smaller white sphere. Attached to the farthest right black sphere is a red sphere, connected to two more black spheres, all in a row. Attached to the last black sphere of that row are two more white spheres. Attached to the first black sphere of that row is another red sphere. A black sphere, attached to two red spheres and a white sphere is attached to the black sphere on the top right of the six-sided ring.
The average mass of an aspirin molecule is 180.15 amu. The model shows the molecular structure of aspirin, C 9 H 8 O 4 .

Computing molecular mass for a covalent compound

Ibuprofen, C 13 H 18 O 2 , is a covalent compound and the active ingredient in several popular nonprescription pain medications, such as Advil and Motrin. What is the molecular mass (amu) for this compound?

Solution

Molecules of this compound are comprised of 13 carbon atoms, 18 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. Following the approach described above, the average molecular mass for this compound is therefore:

A table is shown that is made up of six columns and five rows. The header row reads: “Element,” “Quantity,” a blank space, “Average atomic mass (a m u),” a blank space, and “Subtotal (a m u).” The first column contains the symbols “C,” “H,” “O,” and a merged cell. The merged cell runs the length of the first five columns. The second column contains the numbers “13,” “8,” and “2” as well as the merged cell. The third column contains the multiplication symbol in each cell except for the last, merged cell. The fourth column contains the numbers “12.01,” “1.008,” and “16.00” as well as the merged cell. The fifth column contains the symbol “=” in each cell except for the last, merged cell. The sixth column contains the values “156.13,” “18.114,” “32.00,” and “206.27.” There is a thick black line below the number 32.00. The merged cell under the first five columns reads “Molecular mass.” To the right is a ball-and-stick model of the structure. At the center, it shows six black spheres arranged in a six-sided ring with alternating double bonds. The two black spheres at the top and bottom of the six-sided ring are each bonded to one, smaller, white sphere. The black sphere on the left side of the six-sided ring is connect to another black sphere. This sphere is connected to two smaller, white spheres and another black sphere. This black sphere is connected to one, smaller white sphere, and two other black spheres. Each of these last two black spheres is connected to two smaller, white spheres. The black sphere on the right side of the six-sided ring is connected to another black sphere. This black sphere is connected to one smaller, white sphere and two other black spheres. The black sphere that is connected to it and is situated to the top right is connected to two smaller, white spheres. The black sphere connected towards the bottom right is connected to two red spheres. It forms a double bond with one of these red spheres and the other red sphere is connected to a smaller, white sphere.

Check your learning

Acetaminophen, C 8 H 9 NO 2 , is a covalent compound and the active ingredient in several popular nonprescription pain medications, such as Tylenol. What is the molecular mass (amu) for this compound?

Answer:

151.16 amu

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Source:  OpenStax, Chemistry. OpenStax CNX. May 20, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11760/1.9
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