Chemical compounds are made of atoms bonded together. The way the atoms are bonded together in a compound is shown by its structural formula. In this lesson, we will learn about the different types of structural formulas and look at an example for each formula.
What Is a Structural Formula?
We have chemical compounds all around us – they are in our food, drinks and in objects we use every single day. These chemical compounds can be identified by their molecular formulas. A few examples are shown in the following illustration:
While the molecular formula shows what how many atoms there are for each element present in the compound, it does not tell us about how the elements are bonded together. We don’t know which atom of an element is bonded to which. This is where the structural formula comes in.The structural formula shows how the atoms are arranged and bonded together in a molecular formula of a chemical compound. Let’s take a look at the compounds vinegar and ethyl alcohol, and compare their molecular formulas with their structural formulas:
Without the structural formula, we wouldn’t know that acetic acid has a carbon atom double-bonded together with oxygen.
By looking at the structural formula, we can see the spatial arrangement of the atoms in the compound.
Structural Formula: Types and Examples
It is always good to have choices, and the same goes with how we draw structural formulas. There are different ways to represent a compound’s structural formula. The earlier examples illustrate just one way of drawing the structural formula. In this upcoming section, we’ll look at the different types of structural formulas.The electron dot structural formula representation uses dots to represent the electrons involved with the bonding between different atoms. Let’s take a look at the following compounds: water, ammonia and ethanol.
Here, you can see the nonbonding electrons in red and the bonding electrons between the atoms in black:
Line-bond structural formula: The line-bond structural formula is a very commonly used representation of the structural formula. Like the name suggests, the line-bond structural formula uses lines and bonds to show the covalent bonds between atoms. This gives us a simpler and less cluttered representation of the structural formula. Instead of drawing dots between atoms, we draw lines.
One line is equivalent to one pair of bonding electrons. The red dots are the nonbonding electrons. Here are the line-bond structural formula versions of the same compounds shown in the electron dot formula representation:
For organic compounds (carbon containing compounds) like ethanol, we usually don’t show the nonbonding electrons, the red dots. We can omit the nonbonding electrons, the red dots, for organic compounds.Condensed structural formula: The condensed structural formula still uses lines between bonded atoms, but is an easier and shorter way to draw the line-bond structural formula because it omits the carbon and hydrogen bonds. We can see this when we compare the line-bond structural formula with the condensed structural formula.
Skeletal structural formula: The skeletal structural formula is a variation of the structural formula where the hydrogen atoms are not shown, but the carbon atoms are represented by the edges of the chain or line. We can see this here in the comparison of the condensed structural formula with the skeletal structural formula:
This way of writing the structural formula makes it even more convenient and easier, especially when you want to draw bigger and more complex molecules.
Let’s review. The structural formula describes the spatial arrangement of atoms in a compound and the atoms of elements that are bonded together.
There are a variety of ways to represent the structural formulas of compounds.The electron dot structural formula makes use of dots to represent the electrons bonding in the compound. Line-bond structural formula relies upon the use of lines to show the bonds between all atoms. The condensed structural formula also makes use of lines, but instead of drawing all the bonds between carbon and hydrogen, it omits them.
The skeletal structural formula represents carbon atoms as the edges of the chain instead of writing them, and the hydrogen atoms are not shown. This type of structural formula is very convenient when drawing bigger and more complex compounds. Using ethanol as an example, the following is a comparison of the different types of structural formulas discussed in this lesson:
Structural Formula – Terminology & Definitions
|Electron dot structural formula||representation uses dots to represent the electrons bonding in the compound|
|Line-bond structural formula||relies upon the use of lines to show the bonds between all atoms|
|Condensed structural formula||makes use of lines between bonded atoms, but instead of drawing all the bonds between carbon and hydrogen, it omits them|
|Skeletal structural formula||represents carbon atoms as the edges of the chain instead of writing them, and the hydrogen atoms aren’t shown|
When you’ve studied this information thoroughly, assess your ability to accomplish the following objectives:
- Note the characteristics of a structural formula
- Identify the various types
- Detail examples of structural formulas