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Amount of Substance

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Amount of Substance

Atoms are too small for scientists to count individually- 500,000 carbon atoms stacked together equal the width of a single strand of human hair!

  • In this article about the amount of substance, you will learn about Avogadro’s constant (L) and how to calculate the number of moles (n).
  • You will also discover relative atomic mass (Ar) and why we use the unified atomic mass unit (u).
  • We will discuss Percentage Yield and why actual yield is lower than theoretical yield. Finally, you will learn the ideal gas equation and kinetic gas theory.
  • This is a summary article; to learn more, tap on the linked topics.

What is the amount of substance?

The amount of substance (n) means the number of particles or elementary entities in a sample. It is also called the chemical amount.

The unit for the amount of substance is the mole.

An elementary entity is the smallest amount of a substance that can exist. Elementary entities can be atoms, molecules, ions, or electrons.

When talking about amounts of substance you must specify what elementary entity is involved. For example, consider the element oxygen.

You might assume the elementary entity for an amount of oxygen is the oxygen atom- O. However, at standard temperature and pressure two oxygen atoms combine into molecular oxygen- . This means oxygen’s elementary entity is .

When we talk about the amount of substance of covalent compounds, we mean their molecular formula. For ionic compounds, we mean their formula units.

Amount of Substance Diatomic oxygen StudySmarterOxygen is a diatomic particle. It exists in pairs so the elementary entity for oxygen is O2. Olive [Odagbu], StudySmarter Originals

What is the mole?

A chemical mole is another way of saying an exact quantity. Just like we say 'a dozen' to mean 'twelve things', a mole is '602 hexillion things'. That's 602,200,000,000,000,000,000,000! We write it as for short.

Amount of Substance The Mole StudySmarterA mole is 602 hexillion things! Olive [Odagbu], StudySmarter Originals


The number is also known as Avogadro's constant (L). It is named after an Italian scientist called Amedeo Avogadro. He discovered that equal volumes of gases contain the same number of molecules when under the same conditions. Scientists used this discovery to calculate Avogadro's constant.

Avogadro's constant (L) is the exact number of atoms in 12 grams of carbon-12. This number is . We give it the units , which you read as 'per mole'.

The mole is the SI unit for the amount of substance.

You can find the number of moles using this formula:

or

n: number of moles

m: mass in grams

M: molar mass (the mass of 1 mole in grams)

The amount of elementary entities in a mole is equal to the number of atoms in 12g of the carbon-12 isotope.

This means that in 1 mole of any substance, there are exactly elementary entities or Avogadro's constant.

1 mole of a substance weighs 80 g and you have 10 g of it. How many moles of the substance do you have?

Why is the mole important?

The mole is essential when we talk about chemical reactions. Have a look at this equation:

We can say "oxygen and hydrogen react to make water"

or

"two molecules of hydrogen and one molecule of oxygen react to make water".

Did you notice that we need two times as many molecules of hydrogen as we need oxygen? So if we had 1 mole of hydrogen and 1 mole of oxygen they would have the same number of molecules - Avogadro's constant. To make sure we have twice as many hydrogen molecules, we need twice as many moles of hydrogen.

That means we can also say "2 moles of hydrogen react with 1 mole of oxygen to make 2 moles of water".

The mole is helpful because it allows you to read chemical equations by the number of moles of each substance. You can then figure out the exact amounts of substances that are reacting.

The mass of one mole of a substance is equal to its formula mass.

What is relative mass?

Scientists measure the mass of an atom by comparing it to the mass of a neutral carbon-12 atom. We call this relative mass.

We express relative mass by referring to the unified atomic mass unit (u or Dalton).

One dalton (1u) equals the mass of a stable atom of carbon-12 or kg.

We compare all atoms to of carbon-12 because it equals 1u.

u is the unit of measurement for atomic mass. 1u equals the mass of a carbon-12 atom.

Why do we use relative masses?

We use relative masses because atoms are so tiny that using their actual weights makes calculations tricky. Instead of using the actual mass of atoms in problems, scientists compare all atoms to a standard atom: carbon-12. They use carbon-12 because it is a stable isotope and they can measure its mass accurately. Carbon-12 is the isotope of carbon with 6 protons and 6 neutrons. They found out the carbon-12 atom weighs grams.

Amount of Substance Carbon-12 StudySmarterCarbon-12 Olive [Odagbu], StudySmarter Originals

Scientists gave carbon-12 a mass of 12u because they found it easier to say "carbon-12 weighs 12u". By comparing the weight of all other atoms to carbon-12 they discovered the hydrogen atom weighs of the carbon-12 atom. So they gave hydrogen a relative mass of 1u.

hydrogen = carbon mass ÷ 12

=12u ÷ 12

=1u

What is relative atomic mass?

The atomic mass of an element will vary from one isotope to another. The figure we see for an element's atomic mass on the periodic table is the relative atomic mass.

Relative atomic mass () is the average mass of all the isotopes of an element, weighed by the abundance of each isotope on Earth.

You can calculate the relative atomic mass using this formula:

What is relative molecular mass?

The weighted average of the mass of a molecule compared to of the mass of a carbon-12 atom is called the relative molecular mass ( or RMM).

What is percentage yield?

When we compare the actual amount of product we get from a chemical reaction to the amount we theoretically could have got, it is called Percentage Yield.

Percentage yield measures the effectiveness of a chemical reaction. It tells us how much of our reactants (in percentage terms) successfully turned into a product.

We calculate it like this:

Christina calculated the theoretical yield of an experiment to be 16.5g of sodium chloride. As a result of the reaction the got 12.8g of sodium chloride. Calculate the percentage yield of Christina's experiment.

actual yield / theoretical yield x 100

(12.8 / 16.5) x 100

Percentage yield = 77.576 percent.

What is theoretical yield?

Theoretical yield (also known as predicted yield) is the maximum amount of product that you can get from a reaction.

Theoretical yield is the yield you would get if all the reactants in your experiment turned into a product.

Why is actual yield lower than theoretical yield?

Actual yield is the amount of product you actually get from an experiment. It is rare to get the 100 percent yield in a reaction.

Actual yield is often lower than theoretical yield because:

  1. Some of the reactants don't convert to a product.

  2. Some of the reactants get lost in the air (if it's a gas).

  3. Impurities stop the reaction.

  4. Unwanted by-products get produced in side-reactions.

  5. The reaction reaches equilibrium.

The ideal gas equation

Gases have three natural properties: volume, pressure, and temperature. Scientists have known for a long time that there is a relationship between these three properties. The Ideal Gas Law is an equation that explains the relationship between the natural properties of gases. Here’s how you write the ideal gas equation:

P: pressure (Pa)

V: volume()

n: number of moles

R: The gas constant

T: temperature (K)

Calculate the volume of 1 mole of an ideal gas at 0°C and 1 atmosphere pressure.

0° = 273 K

1atm. = 101325 Pa.

R = 8.31441

PV = nRT

101325 x V = 1 x 8.31441 x 273

V = 2269.83393101325

V = 0.0224 or 22.4

Before the ideal gas law, scientists had noticed other relationships between the temperature, pressure, and volume of gases.

  • Scientists found that if the amount of gas and its pressure stay the same, when you change the temperature the volume also changes. Raising the temperature increases the volume. Lowering the temperature decreases the volume. Scientists named this discovery Charles’s Law.

  • They also realised that volume and pressure are inversely related. If volume goes up the pressure goes down. The opposite is true too! This relationship is called Boyle's Law.

What is an ideal gas?

Ideal gases behave according to the Kinetic Gas Theory at all conditions of temperature and pressure.

That means the gas molecules have no volume and no attractive forces between each other. When you think about it, that can't be true at all! So there is no such thing as an ideal gas.

Gases that do not obey kinetic gas theory are called real gases.

Fortunately, most real gases behave in an ideal way.

What is the kinetic theory of gases?

The Kinetic Theory of Gases explains the relationship between the properties of a gas. It describes gases as made up of tiny particles that never stop moving and have plenty of space between them.

This theory is based on a few vital assumptions.

  • Gases have molecules that move randomly in straight lines.

  • The molecules of a gas behave like rigid spheres.

  • When the molecules of gas collide with the sides of a container it causespressure.

  • When the molecules collide with each other and against the container they do not lose kinetic energy. (The collisions are completely elastic.)

  • The temperature of the gas relates to the average kinetic energy of its molecules.

  • The molecules have negligible intermolecular forces between them.

  • The volume occupied by the molecules is negligible and relative to the volume of the container.

Amount of Substance - Key takeaways

  • A mole (n) is the SI unit for the amount of substance. The amount of elementary entities in a mole is equal to the number of atoms in 12g of the carbon-12 isotope. The number of entities per mole is the Avogadro constant.
  • The equation for the number of moles is


  • Avogadro's constant (L) is the number of atoms in 12 grams of carbon-12 or 6.022 x10^23. We give it the units mol^-1, which you read as "per mole".
  • u is the unit of measurement for atomic mass. 1u equals 1/12 the mass of a carbon-12 atom. We compare all atoms to 1/12 of carbon-12 because it equals 1u.
  • Relative atomic mass (Ar) is the average mass of all the isotopes of an element, weighed by the abundance of each isotope on Earth.
  • Percentage yield measures the effectiveness of a chemical reaction. It tells us how much of our reactants (in percentage terms) successfully turned into a product.
  • The formula for percentage yield is
  • Theoretical yield (also known as predicted yield) is the maximum amount of product that you can get from a reaction.
  • Actual yield is the amount of product you actually get from an experiment. It is rare to get the 100% yield in a reaction.
  • The ideal gas law is an equation that explains the relationship between the natural properties of gases.
  • The ideal gas equation is PV = nRT.
  • Ideal gases behave according to the Kinetic Gas Theory at all conditions of temperature and pressure.
  • Gases that do not obey kinetic gas theory are called real gases.
  • Kinetic theory explains the relationship between the properties of a gas. It is based on the assumption that the molecules have negligible intermolecular forces between them and the volume occupied by the molecules is negligible and relative to the volume of the container.

Frequently Asked Questions about Amount of Substance

A chemical mole is another way of saying an exact quantity. Just like we say 'a dozen' to mean 'twelve things', a mole is '602 hexillion things'. That's 602,200,000,000,000,000,000,000! We write it as 6.022 x 10^(23) for short.


A mole is the SI unit for the amount of substance. The amount of elementary entities in a mole is equal to the number of atoms in 12g of the carbon-12 isotope. The number of entities per mole is the Avogadro constant or 6.022 x 10^(23).


You can calculate it like this: n = m/M


The mole is helpful because it allows you to read chemical equations by the number of moles of each substance. You can then work out the exact amounts of substances that are reacting.

6.022 x 10^(23) is also known as Avogadro's constant (L). It is named after an Italian scientist - Amedeo Avogadro. He discovered that equal volumes of gases when under the same conditions contain the same amount of molecules. Scientists used this discovery to calculate Avogadro's constant.


Avogadro's constant (L) is the number of atoms in 12 grams of carbon-12 or 6.022 x 10^(23). We give it the units mol^-1, which you read as 'per mole'.

Final Amount of Substance Quiz

Question

What is Avogadro’s constant?

Show answer

Answer

Avogadro's constant (L) is the number of atoms in 12 grams of carbon-12 or 6.022 x 10(23). We give it the units mol-1, which you read as 'per mole'.

Show question

Question

What is an ideal gas?

Show answer

Answer

Ideal gases behave according to the Kinetic Gas Theory at all conditions of temperature and pressure.

Show question

Question

Which of the following assumptions belong to Kinetic theory?

Show answer

Answer

The molecules have negligible intermolecular forces between them

Show question

Question

What is the ideal gas equation?



Show answer

Answer

PV = nRT

Show question

Question

What is the ideal gas equation?



Show answer

Answer

PV = nRT

Show question

Question

What is the ideal gas law?

Show answer

Answer

The ideal gas law is an equation that explains the relationship between the natural properties of gases.

Show question

Question

What is theoretical yield?

Show answer

Answer

Theoretical yield (also known as predicted yield) is the maximum amount of product that you can get from a reaction.

Show question

Question

What is the actual yield?

Show answer

Answer

Actual yield is the amount of product you actually get from an experiment.

Show question

Question

What is the percentage yield?

Show answer

Answer

Percentage yield measures the effectiveness of a chemical reaction. It tells us how much of our reactants (in percentage terms) successfully turned into a product.

Show question

Question

What are some reasons actual yield is often lower than theoretical yield?

Show answer

Answer

Some of the reactants don't convert to a product

Show question

Question

What is the empirical formula?

Show answer

Answer

The empirical formula shows the simplest whole-number molar ratio of each element in a compound.

Show question

Question

What is the molecular formula?

Show answer

Answer

The molecular formula shows the actual number of atoms of each element in a molecule.

Show question

Question

Why are the molecular and empirical formulas sometimes identical?

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Answer

Sometimes the empirical and molecular formulas are identical because the ratio of atoms cannot be simplified further.

Show question

Question

Which of these do you need to find the empirical formula of a substance?

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Answer

Relative atomic mass


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Question

Which of these do you need to find the molecular formula of a substance?

Show answer

Answer

Relative formula mass

Show question

Question

A hydrocarbon has a mass that is 83.7 percent carbon and a relative atomic mass of 86.

Find the empirical formula and then the molecular formula.



Show answer

Answer

100 - 83.7 = 16.3

83.7 ÷ 12 = 6.975

16.3 ÷ 1 = 16.3


6.975 ÷ 6.975 = 1

16.3 ÷ 6.975 = 2.337


*find ratio to the nearest whole number

2.337 x 3 = 7.011


Empirical formula = C3H7


Arof empirical formula 

(C 12 x 3) + (H 1 x 7) = 43


86 ÷ 43 = 2


Molecular formula:

C(3x2)H(7x2)


C6H14



Show question

Question

What are reaction coefficients and what do they show?



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Answer

The big numbers we put in front of formulae when we balance chemical equations. They show the ratio of the samples reacting and the products they form.



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Question

What are state symbols? Give examples.

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Answer

They tell us what state a sample in a reaction is in. 

Examples of state symbols: (l), (g), (s), (aq).



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Question

What is ionic dissociation?

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Answer

When ionic compounds in an aqueous solution separate into their ions.

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Question

What are spectator ions?

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Answer

Spectator ions dissociate in a solution but do not take part in a chemical reaction.

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Question

A reaction takes place between calcium chloride and sodium carbonate. Write the balanced equation for this reaction. Write the complete and net ionic equations and find the spectator ions.



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Answer

CaCl₂ + Na₂CO₃ → CaCO₃ + NaCl


Molecular equation

CaCl₂(aq) + Na₂CO₃(aq) → CaCO₃(s) + 2NaCl(aq) 


Complete ionic equation

Ca2⁺(aq) + 2Cl⁻(aq) + 2Na⁺(aq) + CO₃²⁻(aq) → 2Cl⁻(aq) + 2Na⁺(aq) + CaCO₃(s) 


Ca2⁺(aq) + 2Cl⁻(aq) + 2Na⁺(aq) + CO₃²⁻(aq) → 2Cl⁻(aq) + 2Na⁺(aq) + CaCO₃(s)


Net ionic equation

Ca2⁺(aq) + CO₃2⁻(aq) → CaCO₃(s) 


Spectator ions: Cl⁻ and Na⁺



Show question

Question

A reaction takes place between hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide. Write the balanced equation for this reaction. Write the complete and net ionic equations and find the spectator ions.



Show answer

Answer

​​​​​HCl + NaOH → NaCl + H₂O


Molecular equation

HCl(aq) + NaOH(aq) → NaCl(aq) + H₂O(l)


Complete ionic equation

H⁺(aq) + Cl⁻(aq) + Na⁺(aq) + OH⁻(aq) → Na⁺(aq) + Cl⁻(aq) + H₂O(l)


H⁺(aq) + Cl⁻(aq) + Na⁺(aq) + OH⁻(aq) → Na⁺(aq) + Cl⁻(aq) + H₂O(l)


Net ionic equation

H⁺(aq) + OH⁻(aq) → H₂O(l)


Spectator ions: Cl⁻ and Na⁺




Show question

Question

Select factors that affect percentage yield?

Show answer

Answer

Some reactants get lost in the air

Show question

Question

What is the percentage yield?

Show answer

Answer

Percentage yield measures the effectiveness of a chemical reaction. It tells us how much of our reactants (in percent) successfully turned into a product.

Show question

Question

What is theoretical yield?

Show answer

Answer

Theoretical yield (A.K.A. predicted yield) is the maximum amount of product that you can get from a reaction.

Show question

Question

What is actual yield?

Show answer

Answer

Actual yield is the amount of product you practically get from an experiment. It is rare to get 100 percent yield in a reaction due to the inefficiency of the reaction process.

Show question

Question

What is a limiting reactant?

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Answer

A limiting reactant is a reactant that is all used up at the end of a chemical reaction. Once the limiting reactant is all used up, the reaction stops.

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Question

What is an excess reactant?

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Answer

One or more of the reactants may be in excess. They are not all used up in a chemical reaction.

Show question

Question

Find the limiting reactant in the reaction below?

5 g of iron and 5 g of sulfur were used to make iron sulphide

Fe(s) + S(s) → FeS(s) 

Show answer

Answer

Iron (Fe) is the limiting reactant.


(1 mole of iron reacts with 1 mole of sulfur to make 1 mole of iron sulphide. 

Fe = 56/5 = 0.089 mol. Fe

S = 32/5 = 0.156 mol. S 

There is not enough iron to react with the sulfur.)



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Question

What is atom economy?

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Answer

Atom economy shows how many of the atoms used in the reaction turned into the product we want.

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Question

How do atom economy and percentage yield differ?

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Answer

Percentage yield measures the efficiency of a reaction based on the actual results from an experiment. However, atom economy is theoretical and measures the efficiency of a reaction based on the balanced equation.

Show question

Question

Why are high atom economies important in industry?

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Answer

A reaction with a high atom economy is important in industry because: 

  • It uses fewer natural resources. 

  • Produces less waste. 

  • Is better for the environment. 

  • Makes production cheaper.

  • Is more sustainable.

Show question

Question

A reaction takes place between methanol and a compound to produce methyl tertiary-butyl ether. The atom economy for this reaction is 100 percent. What does this mean?

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Answer

All of the atoms in the reactants were used to make the desired product. There were no waste products in this reaction.

Show question

Question

What is a mole?

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Answer

A value used to express quantities in chemistry.

Show question

Question

What is the value of Avogadro's constant, to three decimal places?

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Answer

6.022 x 1023

Show question

Question

What is the relationship between moles and Avogadro's constant?

Show answer

Answer

One mole of a substance contains 6.022 x 1023 entities. This number is also known as Avogadro's constant.

Show question

Question

How many moles of carbon atoms are there in a 20.4g sample of pure carbon?

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Answer

1.7 mol

Show question

Question

What is the mass of 3.8 moles of ethane, C2H6?

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Answer

114.0g

Show question

Question

How many atoms are in two moles of oxygen molecules, O2?

Show answer

Answer

2.4088 × 1024

Show question

Question

A sample contains 3.76 x 1024 methanol molecules. How many moles of methanol are in the sample?

Show answer

Answer

6.101 mol

Show question

Question

What's the mass of one sodium atom?

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Answer

3.819 x 10-23 g

Show question

Question

What are the SI units in chemistry?



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Answer

SI units refers to an international system of units which has been agreed upon and is used by all scientists around the world. There are seven base SI units. 



Show question

Question

Which are the seven base SI units?



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Answer

They are meter (m), kilogram (kg), second (s), ampere (A), Kelvin (K), mole (mol) and candela (cd).



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Question

What are derived units?



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Answer

Derived units are other quantities which are related to and mathematically derived from the seven basic units.



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Question

What are some derived units?



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Answer

Some common derived units are square meter (m2), cubic meter (m3) and kilogram per cubic meter (kg m-3).



Show question

Question

What is the SI unit for mass?



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Answer

The SI unit for mass is the kilogram, symbol kg.



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Question

What is the SI unit for length?



Show answer

Answer

The SI unit for length is the meter, symbol m.


Show question

Question

What is the SI unit for volume?



Show answer

Answer

The SI unit for volume is the cubic meter, m3.

Show question

Question

What is the SI unit for temperature?

Show answer

Answer

The SI unit for temperature is Kelvin, symbol K.


Show question

Question

What is the SI unit for pressure?



Show answer

Answer

The SI unit for pressure is Pascal, symbol Pa.

Show question

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