Suppose I am trying to determine a compound that has 15.87% carbon (C), 2.15 % hydrogen (H), 18.5% nitrogen (N), & 63.41% oxygen (O) (n.b., this does not equal exactly 100%): what is the empirical formula of the compound?
For my piece of mind, I'll add something to each percentage to make the total 100% - 0.02% to the first three, and 0.01% to oxygen.
So, you know that your compound has
The next step is to divide all these numbers by the smallest one; this is done in order to get the ratios of the four elements in the molecule
The empirical formula must only contain subscripts that are integers, which means that your actual empirical formula is