Skip to main content
Chemistry LibreTexts

Law of Multiple Proportions

John Dalton (1803) stated, "'When two elements combine with each other to form two or more compounds, the ratios of the masses of one element that combines with the fixed mass of the other are simple whole numbers'.

Example

  • Carbon monoxide (\(CO\)): 12 parts by mass of carbon combines with 16 parts by mass of oxygen.
  • Carbon dioxide (\(CO_2\)): 12 parts by mass of carbon combines with 32 parts by mass of oxygen.

Ratio of the masses of oxygen that combines with a fixed mass of carbon (12 parts): 16:32 or 1:2

Hydrogen and oxygen are known to form 2 compounds. The hydrogen content in one is 5.93%, and that of the other is 11.2%. Show that this data illustrates the law of multiple proportions.

SOLUTION

In the first compound: hydrogen = 5.93%

Oxygen = (100 -5.93) = 94.07%

In the second compound: hydrogen = 11.2%

Oxygen = (100 -11.2) = 88.88%

Ratio of the masses of oxygen that combine with fixed mass of hydrogen: 15.86:7.9 or 2:1. This is consistent with the law of multiple proportions.

Contributors