Skip to main content
Chemistry LibreTexts

2: Atoms, Molecules, and Ions

  • Page ID
    216729
  • This chapter will describe some of the fundamental chemical principles related to the composition of matter, including those central to the concept of molecular identity.

    • 2.1: Early Ideas in Atomic Theory
      The ancient Greeks proposed that matter consists of extremely small particles called atoms. Dalton postulated that each element has a characteristic type of atom that differs in properties from atoms of all other elements, and that atoms of different elements can combine in fixed, small, whole-number ratios to form compounds. Samples of a particular compound all have the same elemental proportions by mass.
    • 2.2: Evolution of Atomic Theory
      Although no one has actually seen the inside of an atom, experiments have demonstrated much about atomic structure. Thomson’s cathode ray tube showed that atoms contain small, negatively charged particles called electrons. Millikan discovered that there is a fundamental electric charge—the charge of an electron. Rutherford’s gold foil experiment showed that atoms have a small, dense, positively charged nucleus; the positively charged particles within the nucleus are called protons.
    • 2.3: Atomic Structure and Symbolism
      An atom consists of a small, positively charged nucleus surrounded by electrons. The nucleus contains protons and neutrons; its diameter is about 100,000 times smaller than that of the atom. The mass of one atom is usually expressed in atomic mass units (amu), which is referred to as the atomic mass. An amu is defined as exactly \(1/12\) of the mass of a carbon-12 atom and is equal to 1.6605 \(\times\) 10−24 g.
    • 2.4: Chemical Formulas
      A molecular formula uses chemical symbols and subscripts to indicate the exact numbers of different atoms in a molecule or compound. An empirical formula gives the simplest, whole-number ratio of atoms in a compound. A structural formula indicates the bonding arrangement of the atoms in the molecule. Ball-and-stick and space-filling models show the geometric arrangement of atoms in a molecule. Isomers are compounds with the same molecular formula but different arrangements of atoms.
    • 2.5: Formula Mass and the Mole Concept
      The formula mass of a substance is the sum of the average atomic masses of each atom represented in the chemical formula and is expressed in atomic mass units. The formula mass of a covalent compound is also called the molecular mass. A convenient amount unit for expressing very large numbers of atoms or molecules is the mole. Experimental measurements have determined the number of entities composing 1 mole of substance to be \(6.022 \times 10^{23}\), a quantity called Avogadro’s number.
    • 2.6: Determining Empirical and Molecular Formulas
      The chemical identity of a substance is defined by the types and relative numbers of atoms composing its fundamental entities (molecules in the case of covalent compounds, ions in the case of ionic compounds). A compound’s percent composition provides the mass percentage of each element in the compound, and it is often experimentally determined and used to derive the compound’s empirical formula.
    • 2.7: Chemical Nomenclature
      Chemists use nomenclature rules to clearly name compounds. Ionic and molecular compounds are named using somewhat-different methods. Binary ionic compounds typically consist of a metal and a nonmetal. The name of the metal is written first, followed by the name of the nonmetal with its ending changed to –ide. For example, K2O is called potassium oxide. If the metal can form ions with different charges, a Roman numeral in parentheses follows the name of the metal to specify its charge.

    Contributors and Attributions

    • Was this article helpful?