What is a compound?

1 Answer
Jul 5, 2017


A compound is a pure substance that is composed of two or more elements.


A compound is a pure substance that is composed of two or more elements. Some compounds are formed by covalent bonding, in which valence electrons are shared between atoms; and some compounds are formed by ionic bonding, in which the complete transfer of one or more electrons from one atom to another occurs.

The smallest particle of a covalent compound is called a molecule. Because ionic compounds form crystal lattices, they do not exist as molecules. Instead, the smallest whole number ratio that exists between the cations and anions is called a formula unit.

All compounds have a definite composition. For example, a compound of hydrogen and oxygen that forms water has the formula #"H"_2"O"#. However, hydrogen peroxide is also composed of hydrogen and oxygen with the chemical formula #"H"_2"O"_2#. Both are molecular compounds, but their composition is different, and water and hydrogen peroxide have very different properties.

The diagram below represents a molecule of methane gas #("CH"_4")#. Each hydrogen atom shares its valence electron with one of the carbon atoms valence electrons. There are a total of four covalent bonds in this molecule.

The diagram below shows part of a crystal lattice of sodium chloride #("NaCl")#, an ionic compound composed of sodium cations #("Na"^+)# and chloride anions #("Cl"^(-))#.