Difference Between Empirical and Molecular Formula

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: September 15, 2023


Difference Between Empirical and Molecular Formula

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An empirical formula is the simplest ratio of the number of various atoms, but the molecular formula gives the same amount for every single atom in a molecule.

The molecular formula represented as individual atoms in a compound molecule is formed from biomolecules. Molecular formulas are linked to the gram, which are simple whole number multiples of the empirical formula mass.

If there isn't a subscription, the compound only contains one atom. The analytical formula is frequently referred to as the simplest formulation. The mathematical formulation is the ratio of the complex elements present.

The three basic types of chemical equations are analytical, molecular, and structural. The number of each atom type in a molecule is given by molecular formulas, while structural formulas show how the atoms in a molecule are bonded together. The simplest total-number ratio of atoms in a compound is shown via empirical formula. When all of the data is unavailable, the empirical rule is usually utilized to determine outcomes. It enables statisticians and data analysts to see where the data will fall once everything is available.

Empirical Formula vs Molecular Formula

Empirical formulas are the most basic notational form. Between the compound constituents, they have the smallest whole-number ratio. They do not provide information on the total number of atoms in a single chemical molecule, unlike molecular formulae.

The empirical formula is a compound's fundamental formula, defined as the ratio of subscripts of the formula's smallest entire number of parts. It's also known as the most fundamental formula. An empirical formula is a substance's formula given with the fewest integer subscript.

The molecular formula is the chemical compound with the formula for molecules that includes the integer amount of each atom that you calculated. The integer amounts of the atoms were included in the subscript when formulating a formula. It has six carbon atoms, twelve hydrogen atoms, and six oxygen atoms in its equation.

Divide all the subscripts in the formula by their Lowest Common Denominator to find this.

Depending on the situation, both empirical and molecular formulas can be beneficial. In most cases, the empirical formula is simply employed to demonstrate which elements are present in a molecule. This is helpful when you want to know what elements you're dealing with at a glance.

When you need to know how many atoms of each element are present in a molecule, the molecular formula comes in handy. It gives additional information than the empirical formula and, as a result, is more widely used. When working with organic chemistry, the molecular formula is very significant.

We can write an empirical formula for a specific molecule or macromolecular complexes. An empirical formula only gives the simplest atom ratio, whereas a molecular formula specifies the actual number of each diatomic molecule.

Difference Between Empirical and Molecular Formula in Tabular Form

Parameters Empirical formula Molecular formula
Explanation The simplest whole-number proportion for unique atoms present in the compound is expressed by an empirical formula. The number of different types of atoms in a compound's molecule is specified by the molecular formula.
Theory It represents the simple ratio of atoms. It has the same number of every atom in a molecule
Molecular Mass Exactly no molecular mass. Exactly molecular mass.
Predictions In ionic compounds, the type of atoms and the repeating unit in a polymer can be predicted. Can anticipate the number of atoms that will be oxidized, their reactions, and the end products of those processes.
Usage Molecules, ionic compounds Covalent compounds

What is the Empirical formula?

Empirical formulas are the basic example of molecular formulas that can be created. It displays the atom types in the molecule but does not provide the exact figure of every atom. Rather, it provides the molecule's basic integer ratio for each atom.

The lowest ratio of atoms within a molecule is called an empirical formula. When describing ionic compounds that cannot be broken down into a single molecule unit, the empirical formula is accurate. However, we utilize a molecular formula to characterize covalent compounds, which describes the atoms within a single molecule. In a molecular formula, the atom ratio is the same as in the empirical formula, but it is not dropped. The percent composition of molecules with the same empirical formula is the same.

The chemical formula of glucose, for example, is C6H12O6, while the empirical formula is CH2O. We usually use empirical formulations for ionic bonds that are crystalline. For example, we can't say how many Na and Cl are in a NaCl crystal. As a result, all we have to do is write the empirical formula for the ratio of linked atoms.

Ca3(PO4)2 is an empirical formula. We can easily create the formula for an ionic compound by swapping the charges, which immediately gives the number of ions in the molecule. For macromolecules, We can now easily create empirical formulations. At the time of formulating the empirical formula for polymers, we can note down the repeating unit, then the letter "n" should represent that the polymer leads to n repeating units. On the other side, the empirical formula cannot be used to determine a molecular mass, form, or isomers, but it is useful for analytical purposes.

If you know the molar mass of the chemical, you may apply the empirical formula to obtain the molecular formula. By calculating the empirical formula mass and then dividing the compound molar mass by the empirical formula mass to get the empirical formula mass. The ratio between the molecular and empirical formulas is determined in this manner. To achieve the subscripts for the molecular formula, subscripts of all the empirical formulas are divided by this proportion.


C6H12O6 is the chemical formula for glucose. For every mole of carbon and oxygen, there are 2 molecules of hydrogen. CH2O is the empirical formula for glucose.

Ribose has the chemical formula C5H10O5, which can be simplified to the empirical formula CH2O.

To determine the Empirical Formula:

  • Start with the gram of each element, which you can generally find in an experiment or have been given in a challenge.
  • Assume that the total mass of a sample is a hundred grams so that you can work with simple percentages. To put it differently, make each element's mass equal to the percent. The entire percentage should be 100%.
  • Conversion of mass in each element to moles can be achieved by multiplying the atomic weights of the elements in the periodic table by their molar mass.
  • Multiply each mole amount by the little number of moles that your computation yielded.
  • You get it to the nearest full number by rounding each number. The mole ratio of elements in the compound is represented by the whole numbers, which are the sub numbers following the element symbol in the chemical equation.

What is Molecular formula?

The type of atoms and the number of each atom associated with the molecule are shown in molecular formulae. As a consequence, it identifies each atom's correct stoichiometry. The empirical formula calculates the simplest ratio of the number of various atoms present, whereas the molecular formula calculates the actual number of each atom in a molecule. Some molecular formulas are neutral, however, if there is a charge, it is shown as a superscript on the right side.

In chemical reactions and when documenting any chemical information, we usually utilize the molecular formula. We can acquire knowledge about a molecule just by glancing at its molecular formula.

Molecular formulae can also be used to forecast the oxidation numbers of each atom, how they will react in a reaction and the end products. However, we can't determine the exact molecule arrangement based on the molecular formula alone. Because a single molecular formula can often have many structural formulations. These are known as isomers.  Isomers have the same chemical formula but differ in terms of atom connection and spatial organization. We can create all the possible isomers for a molecule by looking at the molecular formula.

The first element in the molecular formula for organic compounds is carbon and hydrogen, which are followed by the following components in alphabetical order. The chemical formula for n - butanol, for example, is C4H10. In the molecular formula of ionic compounds, the cation comes before the anion. The chemical formula of sodium fluoride, for example, is NaF.

There are no words in molecular formula, and it is not a chemical name. A molecular formula may indicate some simple chemical structures, but it is not the same as a complete chemical and structural formula. Chemical names and structural formulations are more limiting than molecular formulas.

To determine the Molecular Formula:

  • Search for the empirical formula.
  • Determine the empirical unit's mass.
  • Determine the number of empirical units in a molecular unit.
  • Finalize the molecular formula

Main Differences Between Empirical and Molecular Formula in Points

  • Molecular formulas, a type of atom, and the number in each atom are linked in the molecule, where empirical formula can act as the simplest form of formulas that we can mark for a molecule.
  •  As a consequence, the primary distinction between empirical and molecular formulas is that empirical formulas only provide the simplest atom ratio, whereas molecular formulas provide the exact number of each diatomic molecule.
  • Another important distinction between empirical and molecular formulas is that with empirical formulas, We can easily judge the type of atoms in ionic compounds and repeatedly units in polymers, whereas with molecular formulas, We can also judge the oxidation value of each atom, how they will react in a reaction and the end products.
  • We can note down the empirical formula for a random molecule or macromolecule. The molecular formula, on the other hand, is the more testing is executed. An empirical formula only provides the simplest atom ratio, whereas a molecular formula gives the actual number of each atom in a molecule.
  • The arrangement of atoms is not specified in molecular formulae. As a result, a single molecular formula can describe a variety of chemical configurations.
  • The quantity of atoms and their queuing in space is defined by a structural formula.
  • A structural formula is not as compact or easy to communicate as molecular formula, but it provides information about the relative arrangement of atoms and the bonding between atoms that the molecular formula does not.
  • Compounds such as isomers have the same formula but are different chemical structures, and they can have quite different physical properties.


The written formula of a compound is referred to as a "formula" in the chemical literature. There are several methods for recording a compound's composition, each with its own set of meanings. The empirical and molecular forms of recording are two examples of these methods. The term 'empirical' refers to results that are produced by the experiments. An empirical formula, on the other hand, is the simplest type of formula used to explain the composition of a compound, but the molecular formula is the exact representation of the actual component when employed in a formula.

The chemical symbols for the constituent parts are followed by numeric subscripts denoting the number of atoms of each element contained in the molecule in a molecular formula. The empirical formula reflects the reactor's easiest whole-integer atom proportion. A compound's molecular formula can be the same as, or a multiple of, its empirical formula. Molecular formulas are compact and easy to express, but they lack the bonding and atomic arrangement information that a structural formula offers.

Neither empirical nor molecular formulas can be useful depending on the situation. Most of the time, the empirical formula is used to demonstrate which elements are present in a molecule. When you want to see what elements, you're dealing with at a glance, this is beneficial.

The molecular formula comes in helpful when you need to know how many atoms of each element are present in a molecule. It is more frequently used since it provides more data than the empirical formula. The molecular formula is vital when working with organic chemistry.


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"Difference Between Empirical and Molecular Formula." Diffzy.com, 2023. Tue. 26 Sep. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-empirical-and-molecular-formula-407>.

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