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Chemical compound

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Chemical compound

Pure water (H2O), seen in the top image, is an example of a compound: the ball-and-stick model of the molecule (above) shows how water consists of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen

A chemical compound is a pure chemical substance consisting of two or more different chemical elements[1][2][3] that can be separated into simpler substances by chemical reactions.[4] Chemical compounds have a unique and defined chemical structure; they consist of a fixed ratio of atoms[3] that are held together in a defined spatial arrangement by chemical bonds. Chemical compounds can be molecular compounds held together by covalent bonds, salts held together by ionic bonds, intermetallic compounds held together by metallic bonds, or complexes held together by coordinate covalent bonds. Pure chemical elements are not considered chemical compounds, even if they consist of molecules that contain only multiple atoms of a single element (such as H2, S8, etc.),[5] which are called diatomic molecules or polyatomic molecules.

Wider definitions

There are exceptions to the definition above, and many solid chemical materials familiar on Earth (for example many silicate minerals) do not have simple formulas in which various elements that are chemically bonded to each other stand in exact and fixed ratios. These crystalline compounds are called "non-stoichiometric compounds". They vary in composition due to either the presence of foreign elements trapped within the crystal structure or a deficit or excess of the constituent elements. Such non-stoichiometric chemical compounds form most of the crust and mantle of the Earth.

Other compounds regarded as chemically identical may have varying amounts of heavy or light isotopes of the constituent elements, which changes the ratio of elements by mass slightly.

Elementary concepts

Characteristic properties of compounds:

  • Elements in a compound are present in a definite proportion

Example- 2 atoms of hydrogen + 1 atom of oxygen becomes 1 molecule of compound-water.

  • Compounds have a definite set of properties

Elements that comprise a compound do not retain their original properties.
For example, hydrogen (combustible and non-supportive of combustion) + oxygen (non-combustible and supportive of combustion) becomes water (non-combustible and non-supportive of combustion)

Valency is the number of hydrogen atoms that can combine with one atom of the element to form a compound.

Compounds compared to mixtures

The physical and chemical properties of compounds differ from those of their constituent elements. This is one of the main criteria that distinguish a compound from a mixture of elements or other substances—in general, a mixture's properties are closely related to, and depend on, the properties of its constituents. Another criterion that distinguishes a compound from a mixture is that constituents of a mixture can usually be separated by simple mechanical means, such as filtering, evaporation, or magnetic force, but components of a compound can be separated only by a chemical reaction. However, mixtures can be created by mechanical means alone, but a compound can be created (either from elements or from other compounds, or a combination of the two) only by a chemical reaction.

Some mixtures are so intimately combined that they have some properties similar to compounds and may easily be mistaken for compounds. One example is alloys. Alloys are made mechanically, most commonly by heating the constituent metals to a liquid state, mixing them thoroughly, and then cooling the mixture quickly so that the constituents are trapped in the base metal. Other examples of compound-like mixtures include intermetallic compounds and solutions of alkali metals in a liquid form of ammonia.


Chemists describe compounds using formulas in various formats. For compounds that exist as molecules, the formula for the molecular unit is shown. For polymeric materials, such as minerals and many metal oxides, the empirical formula is normally given, e.g. NaCl for table salt.

The elements in a chemical formula are normally listed in a specific order, called the Hill system. In this system, the carbon atoms (if there are any) are usually listed first, any hydrogen atoms are listed next, and all other elements follow in alphabetical order. If the formula contains no carbon, then all of the elements, including hydrogen, are listed alphabetically. There are, however, several important exceptions to the normal rules. For ionic compounds, the positive ion is almost always listed first and the negative ion is listed second. For oxides, oxygen is usually listed last.

In general, organic acids follow the normal rules with C and H coming first in the formula. For example, the formula for inorganic compounds do not often convey structural information, as illustrated by the common use of the formula H2SO4 for a molecule (sulfuric acid) that contains no H-S bonds. A more descriptive presentation would be O2S(OH)2, but it is almost never written this way.

Phases and thermal properties

Compounds may have several possible phases. All compounds can exist as solids, at least at low enough temperatures. Molecular compounds may also exist as liquids, gases, and, in some cases, even plasmas. All compounds decompose upon applying heat. The temperature at which such fragmentation occurs is often called the decomposition temperature. Decomposition temperatures are not sharp and depend on the rate of heating.

CAS number

Every chemical substance, including chemical compounds, that has been described in the literature carries a unique numerical identifier, its CAS number.

See also


  1. ^ Brown, Theodore L.; LeMay, H. Eugene; Bursten, Bruce E.; Murphy, Catherine J.; Woodward, Patrick (2009), Chemistry: The Central Science, AP Edition (11th ed.), Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, pp. 5–6,  
  2. ^ Hill, John W.; Petrucci, Ralph H.; McCreary, Terry W.; Perry, Scott S. (2005), General Chemistry (4th ed.), Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, p. 6,  
  3. ^ a b Whitten, Kenneth W.; Davis, Raymond E.; Peck, M. Larry (2000), General Chemistry (6th ed.), Fort Worth, TX: Saunders College Publishing/Harcourt College Publishers, p. 15,  
  4. ^ Wilbraham, Antony; Matta, Michael; Staley, Dennis; Waterman, Edward (2002), Chemistry (1st ed.), Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, p. 36,  
  5. ^ Halal, John (2008), "Chapter 8: General Chemistry", Milady's Hair Structure and Chemistry Simplified (5 ed.), Milady Publishing, pp. 96–98,  

Further reading

External links

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