# What is the empirical formula of ethylene glycol?

Oct 22, 2015

The molecular formula of ethylene glycol is $H O C {H}_{2} C {H}_{2} O H$, i.e. ${C}_{2} {H}_{6} {O}_{2}$. The empirical formula is ??

#### Explanation:

The empirical formula is the simplest whole number ratio defining constituent atoms in a species (this is glib, I think I learned this definition when I was 15, and it has stuck!). Given this, the molecular formula is clearly not the empirical formula (why not?), but is a multiple of the empirical formula.

So the empirical formula of ethylene glycol is $C {H}_{3} O$; this is the ratio of carbons to hydrogen to oxygen we would find if we tried to determine the composition of the stuff by experiment (i.e. empirically).