This is “Formula Mass”, section 3.5 from the book Introduction to Chemistry: General, Organic, and Biological (v. 1.0).
For more information on the source of this book, or why it is available for free, please see the project's home page. You can browse or download additional books there. You may also download a PDF copy of this book (72 MB) or just this chapter (1 MB), suitable for printing or most e-readers, or a .zip file containing this book's HTML files (for use in a web browser offline).
One skill needed in future chapters is the ability to determine the mass of the formula of an ionic compound. This quantity is called the formula massThe sum of the masses of the elements in the formula of an ionic compound.. The formula mass is obtained by adding the masses of each individual atom in the formula of the compound. Because a proper formula is electrically neutral (with no net electrons gained or lost), the ions can be considered atoms for the purpose of calculating the formula mass.
Let us start by calculating the formula mass of sodium chloride (NaCl). This formula mass is the sum of the atomic masses of one sodium atom and one chlorine atom, which we find from the periodic table; here, we use the masses to two decimal places:
Na: | 22.99 u |
Cl: | + 35.45 u |
Total: | 58.44 u |
To two decimal places, the formula mass of NaCl is 58.44 u.
When an ionic compound has more than one anion or cation, you must remember to use the proper multiple of the atomic mass for the element in question. For the formula mass of calcium fluoride (CaF_{2}), we must multiply the mass of the fluorine atom by 2 to account for the two fluorine atoms in the chemical formula:
Ca: | 1 × 40.08 | 40.08 u |
F: | 2 × 19.00 = | + 38.00 u |
Total: | 78.08 u |
The formula mass of CaF_{2} is 78.08 u.
For ionic compounds with polyatomic ions, the sum must include the number and mass of each atom in the formula for the polyatomic ion. For example, potassium nitrate (KNO_{3}) has one potassium atom, one nitrogen atom, and three oxygen atoms:
K: | 1 × 39.10 | 39.10 u |
N: | 1 × 14.00 | + 14.00 u |
O: | 3 × 16.00 = | + 48.00 u |
Total: | 101.10 u |
The formula mass of KNO_{3} is 101.10 u.
Potassium nitrate is a key ingredient in gunpowder and has been used clinically as a diuretic.
When a formula contains more than one polyatomic unit in the chemical formula, as in Ca(NO_{3})_{2}, don’t forget to multiply the atomic mass of every atom inside the parentheses by the subscript outside the parentheses. This is necessary because the subscript refers to the entire polyatomic ion. Thus, for Ca(NO_{3})_{2}, the subscript 2 implies two complete nitrate ions, so we must sum the masses of two (1 × 2) nitrogen atoms and six (3 × 2) oxygen atoms, along with the mass of a single calcium atom:
Ca: | 1 × 40.08 | 40.08 u |
N: | 2 × 14.00 = | + 28.00 u |
O: | 6 × 16.00 = | + 96.00 u |
Total: | 164.08 u |
The key to calculating the formula mass of an ionic compound is to correctly count each atom in the formula and multiply the atomic masses of its atoms accordingly.
Use the atomic masses (rounded to two decimal places) from the inside cover of this book to determine the formula mass for each ionic compound.
Solution
Fe: | 55.85 u | |
Cl: | 3 × 35.45 = | + 106.35 u |
Total: | 162.20 u |
The formula mass of FeCl_{3} is 162.20 u.
When we distribute the subscript 3 through the parentheses containing the formula for the ammonium ion, we see that we have 3 nitrogen atoms and 12 hydrogen atoms. Thus, we set up the sum as follows:
N: | 3 × 14.00 = | 42.00 u |
H: | 12 × 1.00 = | + 12.00 u |
P: | + 30.97 u | |
O: | 4 × 16.00 = | + 64.00 u |
Total: | 148.97 u |
The formula mass for (NH_{4})_{3}PO_{4} is 148.97 u.
Use the atomic masses (rounded to two decimal places) from the inside cover of this book to determine the formula mass for each ionic compound.
TiO_{2}
AgBr
Au(NO_{3})_{3}
Fe_{3}(PO_{4})_{2}
Some ionic compounds have water (H_{2}O) incorporated within their formula unit. These compounds, called hydrates, have a characteristic number of water units associated with each formula unit of the compound. Hydrates are solids, not liquids or solutions, despite the water they contain.
To write the chemical formula of a hydrate, write the number of water units per formula unit of compound after its chemical formula. The two chemical formulas are separated by a vertically centered dot. The hydrate of copper(II) sulfate has five water units associated with each formula unit, so it is written as CuSO_{4}·5H_{2}O. The name of this compound is copper(II) sulfate pentahydrate, with the penta- prefix indicating the presence of five water units per formula unit of copper(II) sulfate.
Hydrates have various uses in the health industry. Calcium sulfate hemihydrate (CaSO_{4}·½H_{2}O), known as plaster of Paris, is used to make casts for broken bones. Epsom salt (MgSO_{4}·7H_{2}O) is used as a bathing salt and a laxative. Aluminum chloride hexahydrate is an active ingredient in antiperspirants. The accompanying table lists some useful hydrates.
Calcium sulfate hemihydrate (CaSO_{4}·½H_{2}O), or plaster of Paris, is used to make casts to immobilize broken bones until they heal.
© Thinkstock
Table 3.4 Names and Formulas of Some Widely Used Hydrates
Formula | Name | Uses |
---|---|---|
AlCl_{3}·6H_{2}O | aluminum chloride hexahydrate | antiperspirant |
CaSO_{4}·½H_{2}O | calcium sulfate hemihydrate (plaster of Paris) | casts (for broken bones and castings) |
CaSO_{4}·2H_{2}O | calcium sulfate dihydrate (gypsum) | drywall component |
CoCl_{2}·6H_{2}O | cobalt(II) chloride hexahydrate | drying agent, humidity indicator |
CuSO_{4}·5H_{2}O | copper(II) sulfate pentahydrate | fungicide, algicide, herbicide |
MgSO_{4}·7H_{2}O | magnesium sulfate heptahydrate (Epsom salts) | laxative, bathing salt |
Na_{2}CO_{3}·10H_{2}O | sodium carbonate decahydrate (washing soda) | laundry additive/cleaner |
What is the relationship between atomic mass and formula mass?
How are subscripts used to determine a formula mass when more than one polyatomic ion is present in a chemical formula?
The formula mass is the sum of the atomic masses of the atoms in the formula.
The subscript is distributed throughout the parentheses to determine the total number of atoms in the formula.
What is the formula mass for the ionic compound formed by each pair of ions?
What is the formula mass for the ionic compound formed by each pair of ions?
What is the formula mass for the ionic compound formed by each pair of ions?
What is the formula mass for the ionic compound formed by each pair of ions?
What is the formula mass for each compound?
What is the formula mass for each compound?
What is the formula mass for each compound?
What is the formula mass for each compound?
What is the formula mass for each compound?
What is the formula mass for each compound?