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What is a chemical formula

Understanding what is a chemical formula throughout the history

While chemistry is all over around us, all kinds of processes that we can observe and that we cannot see with our own eyes are related to chemistry in that or another way, learning this branch of science is rather difficult for the majority of students. When accomplishing laboratory reports and dealing with chemical experiments, students have to know and to be able to use appropriately a wide range of chemical formulas, which requires a lot of related experience and theoretical background. In other words, before you proceed to any kind of assignment for your studies in the field of chemistry, you need to learn and make sure that you understand what is a chemical formula and how to apply that or another formula to your experiment. In this article, you will find out basic information about this issue and get some knowledge that would be a good starting point when dealing with chemistry assignments.

Chemistry is one of the branches of physical science that studies reactions occurring everywhere around. It deals with the composition, changes, different properties and structure of a matter on the most basic level. Chemistry studies how atoms within different material interact with each other, how can they take part in chemical reactions, what result can come from that or another reaction, how to deal with reactions and chemical experiments and so on.

The term «chemistry» has been used a long time ago. The word has originated from the word «alchemy», which had a great number of different meanings in the very beginning. What we now call metallurgy, astronomy, medicine, philosophy and even chemistry, in ancient times people called chemistry. Within the centuries the definition of the term «chemistry» has been changed a lot, because of numerous researches, discoveries and different theories. Even though what we now call chemistry in ancient times was called differently, the meaning of this branch of science was still the same. More than that, people used to deal with chemical experiments and invented different chemical formulas in the very early ages, when they even couldn’t express the formulas graphically in an appropriate way.

The definition of what is a chemical formula

In terms of general definition, a chemical formula is how you can express and represent information demonstrating the proportions of atoms that are included into a particular compound of chemical substance. A chemical formula is usually represented by means of a single line of certain numbers, different symbols of chemical elements, as well as other symbols, that show the order, way and the principle in accordance with which the elements written in the formula can interact with each other with certain purpose.

As a matter of fact, everything that we eat, drink, everything that we wear, what we use, all the conveniences, medicines, absolutely everything around us is a result of interaction between atoms which can be described as a chemical formula.

There are different kinds of chemical formulas, which may be distinguished due to their complexity and divided into a number of categories and groups. The simplest kind of chemical formula is considered to be an empirical formula. In this case, you are going to deal with numbers identifying the amount and numerical proportions of elements that should be used in the formula. On the other hand, there are also molecular formulas, which serve to identify the number of atoms that the molecule of certain element in a formula includes.

Regardless of the type and complexity of a chemical formula, all of them should be expressed in a graphical way/representation by means of providing a single line of all the chemical elements that the formula includes. In the line, there has to be seen a particular relation between the elements of the formula, the order in which they all interact with each other and may sometimes contain information concerning the structure of the elements, like a structural formula.

The overview of the term

As we have already said, a chemical formula serves to provide the proportions of the numbers of atoms taking part in a chemical reaction or transformation. There are different symbols that may be used in such formula in order to indicate the basic features of the elements of the reaction. There are two basic types of a chemical formula. The first one is an empirical compound, which serves to indicate the proportions by means of starting with the main component followed by assigning numbers of other supporting elements and their atoms. The second type is used to provide an expression of the numbers in general.

Apart from numbers, there are also specific symbols that are created for using in chemical formulas of all types. These symbols are represented in a different systems of chemical nomenclature and are used when describing more complex chemical reactions and transformations.

Practical explanation of what is a chemical formula

When dealing with chemical experiments, it is important to be able to describe the chemical reaction or any chemical transformation observed within the experiment by means of using particular chemical equations. Even though chemical formulas don’t always demonstrate fully all the relationships between the elements of the formula (which is what the structural formulas are for), they are still very important because they allow to represent the number of atoms taking part in the chemical reaction.

A good and easy for understanding example of a chemical reaction is baking cookies. At first, you need to mix up all the necessary ingredients in accordance with the recipe, and then, you can only observe how all these ingredients interact between each other and turn into a tasty dish. In this case, you may call all the ingredients of the recipe that you use for baking cookies as elements of the chemical reaction, and when the cookies are ready, you may call them as the products of the reaction. The recipe that you use for cooking is quite the same as the chemical equation describing proportions, amount and other characteristics of the ingredients.

In other words, a chemical formula is pretty the same as a chemical equation. In order to be able to deal with writing it, you need to undertake the steps provided below in the article.

How to write a chemical formula

Now that you got familiar with what is a chemical formula, you need to learn how to apply your knowledge to your experiment and how to write a chemical formula appropriately. Therefore, read attentively and undertake the following steps:

  • First of all, you need to learn the periodic table. The basic and the most essential blocks in chemistry are atoms, because they are what everything around us in the world consists of. All the atoms that are known today are included into the periodic table. You need to learn it carefully and know exactly what each symbol in the table represents and how it can be used.
  • The next step would be to learn and try to memorize how the atoms represented in the periodic table can exist in the nature. You need to know the elements that different materials consist of and know how they can interact between each other. Look around and try to figure out, what kind of elements different things (for example, chair, a golden ring, a glass and so on) consist of.
  • Learn and make sure that you understand how different molecules can be described in a formula. Even if you know all the atoms, their names and properties, it won’t help if you don’t know how to describe them in the formula. Therefore, you need to find out how many atoms of certain type are in that or another element.
  • When all the previous steps are undertaken, you may proceed directly to writing the formula. To start with, you need to define the reactants taking part in the chemical reaction. They will serve as basic materials of the formula that you are going to write.
  • Figure out the products in the reaction. This is important for the understanding of what results of the chemical experiment you are going to achieve. The products of the chemical reaction can be written as a combination of atoms and molecules, as well as just separate elements.
  • Keep in mind that on this stage your chemical formula is not balanced yet. So, the next step would be to deal with an accurate representation of the chemical formula.
  • Note that all the atoms are conservated. You cannot create them or destroy within the experiment, which means that you need to count the precise number of atoms in the beginning of the experiment.
  • Deal with writing the final version of the chemical equation. Take into consideration all your date and results and write them down in a single line.
  • Deal with practicing. Once you have finished writing the chemical reaction, you need to check whether it works appropriately. In order to make sure that everything works, consider asking someone for help.

The above-mentioned steps are essential when dealing with chemical formulas, including writing these formulas and using them within any chemical experiment. If you read the information provided above and follow these steps carefully there is a great chance that you will make success during your studies in the field of chemistry.

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