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Chemical compound
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Chemical compound

In chemistry, a compound is a substance formed from two or more elements, with a fixed ratio determining the composition. For example, water is a compound made out of hydrogen and oxygen in the ratio of two to one.

In general, this fixed ratio must be fixed due to some sort of physical property, rather than an arbitrary man-made selection. This is why materials such as brass, the superconductor YBCO, the semiconductor Aluminium gallium arsenide or chocolate are considered mixtures or alloys rather than compounds.

A defining characteristic of a compound is that it has a chemical formula. Formulas describe the ratio of numbers of atoms in a substance. For example, in H2O (water) there are two hydrogen atoms for every one oxygen atom. The formula does not tell you that water is made of molecules.

Compounds may have a number of possible phases. For a compound to be a liquid or a gas and still be called a compound, atoms from the various elements must be stuck together in the form of molecules. The formation of molecules is why compounds such as C2H4 exist (rather than just CH2) - the formula is telling you not just the ratios but also how many atoms there are in each molecule.

All compounds will break up into smaller compounds or individual atoms if you heat them to a high enough temperature. This temperature is called the decomposition temperature.

Every chemical compound that has been described in the literature carries a unique numerical identifier, its CAS number. See also systematic name.

Types of compounds

See also