How to Find the Number of Representative Particles in Each Substance


A problem many chemistry students face is calculating the number of representative particles in a substance. A substance has a definite chemical composition with a corresponding chemical formula. Representative particles can be atoms, molecules, formula units or ions, depending on the nature of the substance. The standard unit used to represent the amount of a substance is the mole, where 1 mole contains 6.02 x 10^23 particles. This quantity is referred to as Avogadro's number.

Things You'll Need

  • Scale in grams
  • Periodic Table
  • Scientific calculator
  • Measure the mass of the substance in grams. For example, you weigh a sample of water and its mass is 36.0 grams.

  • Calculate the molar mass of the substance by adding the average atomic masses of the individual atoms in the chemical formula. The average atomic mass for each element can be found in the Periodic Table. For example, the molar mass for water would be 18.0 grams per mole. Water is made of two hydrogen atoms, that each weigh 1.0 gram, and one oxygen atom, that weighs 16.0 grams.

  • Divide the mass measured in Step 1 by the molar mass determined in Step 2. This will change the unit of the substance to moles. Following the example, 36.0 grams / 18.0 grams/mole = 2 moles of water.

  • Multiply the value obtained in Step 3 by Avogadro's number, which represents the number of representative particles in a mole. Avogadro's number has a value of 6.02 x 10^23. Continuing the example, 2 moles of water * 6.02 x 10^23 particles per mole = 1.20 x 10^24 particles.

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