Avogadro's number is used in chemistry when you need to work with very large numbers. It's the basis for the mole unit of measurement, which provides an easy way to convert between moles, mass, and the number of molecules. For example, you can use the number to find the number of water molecules in a single snowflake. (Hint: It's an enormous number!)
Avogadro's Number Example Problem - Number of Molecules in a Given Mass
Question: How many H2O molecules are there in a snowflake weighing 1 mg?
Step 1 - Determine the mass of 1 mole of H2O
Snowflakes are made of water, or H2O. To obtain the mass of 1 mole of water, look up the atomic masses for hydrogen and oxygen from the Periodic Table. There are two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen for every H2O molecule, so the mass of H2O is:
mass of H2O = 2 (mass of H) + mass of O
mass of H2O = 2 ( 1.01 g ) + 16.00 g
mass of H2O = 2.02 g + 16.00 g
mass of H2O = 18.02 g
Step 2 - Determine the number of H2O molecules in one gram of water
One mole of H2O is 6.022 x 1023 molecules of H2O (Avogadro's number). This relation is then used to 'convert' a number of H2O molecules to grams by the ratio:
mass of X molecules of H2O / X molecules = mass of a mole of H20 molecules / 6.022 x 1023 molecules
Solve for X molecules of H2O
X molecules of H2O = ( 6.022 x 1023 H2O molecules ) / ( mass of a mole H2O · mass of X molecules of H2O
Enter the values for the question:
X molecules of H2O = ( 6.022 x 1023 H2O molecules ) / ( 18.02g · 1 g )
X molecules of H2O = 3.35 x 1022 molecules/gram
There are 3.35 x 1022 H2O molecules in 1 g of H2O.
Our snowflake weighs 1 mg and 1 g = 1000 mg.
X molecules of H2O = 3.35 x 1022 molecules/gram · (1 g /1000 mg )
X molecules of H2O = 3.35 x 1019 molecules/mg
There are 3.35 x 1019 H2O molecules in a 1 mg snowflake.
Avogadro's Number Problem Key Takeaways
- Avogadro's number is 6.02 x 1023. It is the number of particles in a mole.
- You can use Avogadro's number to convert between mass and the number of molecules of any pure substance.
- If you are given the mass of a sample (such as a snowflake), convert the mass to moles, and then use Avogadro's number to convert from moles to molecules.