Chemical formula

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A chemical formula is an enumeration of the atoms that constitute a particular chemical compound or molecule, using chemical element symbols, numbers, and sometimes also other symbols, such as parentheses, dashes, brackets, commas and plus (+) and minus (−) signs.


The simplest type of chemical formula is called empirical formula, which uses letters and numbers indicating the numerical proportions of atoms of each type.

Molecular formula indicates the simple numbers of each type of atom in a molecule, with no information on structure. For example, the empirical formula for glucose is CH2O (twice as many hydrogen atoms as carbon and oxygen), while its molecular formula is C6H12O26 (12 hydrogen atoms, 6 carbon and oxygen atoms).

Since a chemical formula must be expressed as a single line of chemical element symbols, it often cannot be as informative as a true structural formula, which is a graphical representation of the spatial relationship between atoms in chemical compounds.


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