GCSE & A level Chemistry Calculations: Calculating relative formula mass or relative molecular mass

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RELATIVE FORMULA or MOLECULAR MASS

2. Calculating relative formula mass or relative molecular mass RFM or Mr

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Keywords: Quantitative Chemistry calculations online Help for problem solving in doing relative formula mass calculations using atomic masses. Practice revision questions on calculating relative molecular mass from a chemical formula and atomic masses. This page describes, and explains, with worked out examples, the method of how to calculate the relative formula mass of a compound (ionic or covalent) or the relative molecular mass of an element or a covalent compound. Online practice exam chemistry CALCULATIONS and solved problems for KS4 Science GCSE/IGCSE CHEMISTRY and basic starter chemical calculations for A level AS/A2/IB courses. These revision notes and practice questions on calculating the relative formula mass or calculating relative molecular mass calculations in chemistry and worked examples should prove useful for the new AQA, Edexcel and OCR GCSE (9–1) chemistry science courses.

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Self-assessment Quizzes on relative formula mass or relative molecular mass:

2. How to calculate relative formula mass or relative molecular mass RFM/RMM or just Mr

How do I calculate relative molecular mass? RMM

How to calculate relative formula mass? RFM

Is there any difference between RMM and RFM?

Does it matter whether the compound is ionic or covalent?

The relative molecular mass/relative formula mass is defined as the sum of all the individual atomic masses of ALL the atoms in the formula (Mr).

If the individual atomic masses of all the atoms in a formula are added together you have calculated the relative formula mass

Atomic masses are listed at the bottom of the page

e.g. for ionic compounds e.g. NaCl = 23 + 35.5 58.5) or molecular mass for covalent elements or compounds ...

e.g. Mr of N2 = 28 from (2 x 14) or compounds e.g. Mr of C6H12O6 = 180 from [(6 x 12) + (12 x 1) + (6 x 16)],

and more examples of how to calculate relative formula mass are further down the page, you get atomic masses from your periodic table.

In a balanced chemical symbol equation, the total of relative formula masses of the reactants is equal to the total relative formula masses of the products (see ).

To be honest, the term relative formula mass can be used with any compound whether it be ionic or covalent - it just seems NOT correct to talk about the molecular mass of an ionic compound when it doesn't consist of molecules, but is that one for the purists!

The shorthand Mr can be used for the formula of any element or compound and to repeat, 'it doesn't matter whether a compound is ionic or covalent'.

Numerically Mr = Relative formula mass = relative molecular mass

= the sum of all the atomic masses for ALL the atoms in a given formula

BUT, note ...

The term relative formula mass is usually applied to ionic compounds.

The term relative molecular mass is usually applied to covalent compounds i.e. those consisting of molecules and not ions.

NOTE: You cannot successfully calculate formula/molecular masses if you cannot read a formula correctly!

Whereas relative atomic mass (section ) only applies to a single atom, anything with at least two atoms in the formula requires the term relative formula mass or relative molecular mass to be used.

WARNING: The most common error is to use atomic/proton numbers instead of atomic masses, unfortunately, except for hydrogen, they are different!

Examples of relative formula mass or relative molecular mass calculations:

How to calculate relative molecular mass = How to calculate relative formula mass

Molecular/formula mass = total of all the atomic masses of ALL the atoms in the molecule/compound.

Watch out for brackets e.g. (OH)2 means two OH groups to add up!

• Relative molecular mass calculation Example 2.1
• The diatomic molecules of the elements hydrogen H2 and chlorine Cl2
• relative atomic masses, Ar: H = 1, Cl = 35.5
• Formula masses, RMM or Mr
• relative molecular mass for hydrogen H2 = 2 x 1 = 2
• relative molecular mass for chlorine Cl2 = 2 x 35.5 = 71 respectively.
• Relative molecular mass calculation Example 2.2
• The element phosphorus consists of P4 molecules. (atomic mass of P = 31)
• relative molecular mass or Mr of phosphorus = 4 x its atomic mass = 4 x 31 = 124
• Relative molecular mass calculation Example 2.3: The compound water H2O
• relative atomic masses are H=1 and O=16
• relative molecular mass or Mr = (1x2) + 16 = 18 (molecular mass of water)
• Relative molecular mass calculation Example 2.4
• The compound sulphuric acid H2SO4  when pure, is a covalent compound
• relative atomic masses are H = 1, S = 32 and O = 16
• relative molecular mass or Mr = (1 x 2) + 32 + (4 x 16) = 98 (molecular mass of sulphuric acid )
• Relative formula mass calculation Example 2.5
• The ionic compound magnesium hydroxide Mg(OH)2 (ionic)
• relative atomic masses are Mg = 24, H = 1 and O = 16
• relative formula mass or Mr = 24 + 2 x (16+1) = 58
• Important note on terminology
• The term relative formula mass is also best applied to giant structure compounds
• e.g. silicon dioxide SiO2 (RFM = 28 + 16 + 16 = 60, a 3D giant covalent lattice compound.
• Relative formula mass calculation Example 2.6
• The ionic compound aluminium oxide (Al3+)2(O2-)3 or just the plain formula Al2O3
• but it makes no difference to the calculation of relative formula mass or relative molecular mass.
• relative atomic masses are Al = 27 and O = 16
• so the relative formula mass RFM or Mr = (2 x 27) + (3 x 16) = 102
• Relative formula mass calculation Example 2.7
• Calcium phosphate is also ionic but a more tricky formula to work out!
• (Ca2+)3(PO43-)2 or Ca3(PO4)2, but it makes no difference to the calculation of relative formula mass or relative molecular mass.
• atomic masses: Ca = 40, P = 31, O =16
• relative formula mass or Mr = (3 x 40) + 2 x {31 + (4 x 16)} = (120) + (2 x 95) = 310
• Relative molecular mass calculation Example 2.8
• Glucose C6H12O6  a covalent compound
• atomic masses: C = 12, O= 16, H = 1
• relative molecular mass of glucose Mr(C6H12O6) = (6 x 12) + (12 x 1) + (6 x 16) = 180
• Relative molecular mass calculation Example 2.9
•   butane C4H10
• relative atomic masses: C = 12, H=1
• Mr = (4 x 12) + (10 x 1) = 58
• Relative formula mass calculation Example 2.10
• copper(II) sulfate (copper sulfate, CuSO4, ionic)
• relative atomic masses: Cu = 63.5, S = 32, O = 16
• Mr = 63.5 + 32 + (4 x 16) = 159.5 (its 160 is you use Cu = 64)
• Relative molecular mass calculation Example 2.11
• propanol, C3H8O, CH3CH2CH2OH (the same formula can be expressed in different ways!)
• relative atomic masses: C = 12, H=1, O = 16
• Mr = (3 x 12) + (8 x 1) + 16 = 60
• Relative formula mass calculation Example 2.12
• magnesium nitrate, Mg(NO3)2
• relative atomic masses: Mg = 24, N = 14, O = 16
• Mr = 24 + (2 x 14) + (6 x 16) = 24 + 28 + 96 = 148
• Relative formula mass calculation Example 2.13
• blue hydrated copper sulfate crystals CuSO4.5H2O, again a bit more tricky!
• Cu = 63.5, S = 32, H = 1, O =16
• Just do this carefully in parts eg
• CuSO4 = 63.5 + 32 + (4 x 16) = 159.5 (160 if you use Cu = 64)
• H2O = (2 x 1) + 16 = 18, 5 x 18 = 90
• Formula mass = 159.5 + 90 = 249.5 (250 if Cu = 64)

Self-assessment Quizzes on relative formula mass or relative molecular mass

QUIZ on calculating formula/molecular mass

Above is typical periodic table used in GCSE science-chemistry specifications in calculating relative formula mass or calculating relative molecular mass, and I've 'usually' used these values in my exemplar calculations to cover most syllabuses

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