Using Moles to Find Formulas

 Using Moles to Find Formulas

Suppose you had exactly one mole of carbon, 12.01 grams and you chemically combined all of it with oxygen. In other words, you burned it completely.

Write the chemical equation for the reaction.   

For every single atom of carbon, how many single atoms of oxygen are needed to form one molecule of the product carbon dioxide?

How many atoms of carbon are in one mole of carbon?

How many atoms of oxygen would be needed to form one mole of CO2?   

What is the mass of the oxygen needed to react with one mole of carbon?   

What would be the final mass of the CO2?

Let=s suppose that you did not know ahead of time what the formula for the carbon dioxide product was. Maybe when carbon burns it forms CO or CO3 or perhaps C2O3.  If you had burned 12.01 grams of carbon, collected all the gas that was formed and found its mass to be 44.01 grams, you would then know that the mass of the oxygen that added to the carbon was


32.00 grams of oxygen  x 1 mole of oxygen atoms = 2 moles of oxygen atoms

16.00 g of oxygen

This information can be used to figure out the formula of the gas.

1 mole of carbon and 2 moles of oxygen combined to form a compound. For every one atom of

carbon there are two atoms of oxygen. The formula could be CO2. The subscripts in a formula tell us the relative number of moles of the elements in the compound. Please note that the actual molecular formula could be C2O4 since the relative number of C to O in this compound is also 1:2.

If we know the masses of all of the elements that combined to form a compound and convert those masses to number of moles, and convert the values to whole numbers, we will know the relative number of moles for each element in the compound. These values are the subscripts in the empirical formula or the simplest formula.

In the following laboratory exercise, you will determine the empirical formula of the compound formed by the combination of the elements magnesium and oxygen. You will find the empirical formula in the way that we Afigured out@ the empirical formula of carbon dioxide, that is, by combining magnesium with oxygen and finding the mass of the oxide product. This is easier to do than finding the empirical formula of CO2 because the magnesium oxide is a solid. Because magnesium will react with nitrogen as well as oxygen, we cannot do the procedure in one step.


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