Sum of the atomic weights of all atoms in a chemical formula. The term is generally applied to a substance that consists of ions (see ionic bond) rather than individual molecules (and thus does not have a molecular weight). An example of such a substance is sodium chloride (table salt). Such a substance's chemical formula describes the simplest ratio of the number of atoms of the constituent elements. Seealso stoichiometry.
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Expression of the composition or structure of a chemical compound. Formulas for molecules use chemical symbols with subscript numbers to show the number of atoms of each element: O2 for molecular oxygen, O3 for ozone, CH4 for methane, C6H6 for benzene. Parentheses may enclose atoms that act as a group. General formulas show the proportions of atoms in members of a class (e.g., Cmath.nH2math.n+ 2 for alkanes). If the substance does not exist as molecules (see ionic bond), empirical formulas show the relative proportions of the constituents (e.g., NaCl for sodium chloride). Structural formulas show bonds (see bonding) between atoms in a molecule as short lines between symbols; they are particularly useful for showing how isomers differ. A projection formula also indicates the three-dimensional arrangement of the atoms (see Fischer projection; stereochemistry).
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