Mole (unit)

Last updated
Unit system SI
Unit of amount of substance

The mole, symbol mol, is the unit of amount of substance in the International System of Units (SI). [1] [2] [3] The quantity amount of substance is a measure of how many elementary entities of a given substance are in an object or sample. The mole is defined as containing exactly 6.02214076×1023 elementary entities. Depending on what the substance is, an elementary entity may be an atom, a molecule, an ion, an ion pair, or a subatomic particle such as an electron. For example, 10 moles of water (a chemical compound) and 10 moles of mercury (a chemical element), contain equal amounts of substance and the mercury contains exactly one atom for each molecule of the water, despite the two having different volumes and different masses.


The number of elementary entities in one mole is known as the Avogadro number, which is the approximate number of nucleons (protons or neutrons) in one gram of ordinary matter. The previous definition of a mole was the number of elementary entities equal to that of 12 grams of carbon-12, the most common isotope of carbon.

The mole is widely used in chemistry as a convenient way to express amounts of reactants and products of chemical reactions. For example, the chemical equation 2H2 + O2 → 2H2O can be interpreted to mean that for each 2 mol dihydrogen (H2) and 1 mol dioxygen (O2) that react, 2 mol of water (H2O) form. The concentration of a solution is commonly expressed by its molar concentration, defined as the amount of dissolved substance per unit volume of solution, for which the unit typically used is moles per litre (mol/L).

The term gram-molecule was formerly used for "mole of molecules", and gram-atom for "mole of atoms". [4] For example, 1 mole of MgBr2 is 1 gram-molecule of MgBr2 but 3 gram-atoms of MgBr2. [5] [6]


Nature of the particles

The mole corresponds to a given count of particles. [7] Usually the particles counted are chemically identical entities, individually distinct. For example, a solution may contain a certain number of dissolved molecules that are more or less independent of each other. However, in a solid the constituent particles are fixed and bound in a lattice arrangement, yet they may be separable without losing their chemical identity. Thus the solid is composed of a certain number of moles of such particles. In yet other cases, such as diamond, where the entire crystal is essentially a single molecule, the mole is still used to express the number of atoms bound together, rather than a count of molecules. Thus, common chemical conventions apply to the definition of the constituent particles of a substance, in other cases exact definitions may be specified. The mass of a substance is equal to its relative atomic (or molecular) mass multiplied by the molar mass constant, which is almost exactly 1 g/mol.

Molar mass

The molar mass of a substance is the ratio of the mass of a sample of that substance to its amount of substance. The amount of substance is given as the number of moles in the sample. For most practical purposes, the numerical value of the molar mass expressed with the unit gram per mole is the same as that of the mean mass of one molecule of the substance expressed with the unit dalton. For example, the molar mass of water is 18.015 g/mol. [8] Other methods include the use of the molar volume or the measurement of electric charge. [8]

The number of moles of a substance in a sample is obtained by dividing the mass of the sample by the molar mass of the compound. For example, 100 g of water is about 5.551 mol of water. [8]

The molar mass of a substance depends not only on its molecular formula, but also on the distribution of isotopes of each chemical element present in it. For example, the molar mass of calcium-40 is 39.96259098(22) g/mol, whereas the molar mass of calcium-42 is 41.95861801(27) g/mol, and of calcium with the normal isotopic mix is 40.078(4) g/mol.

Molar concentration

The molar concentration, also called molarity, of a solution of some substance is the number of moles per unit of volume of the final solution. In the SI its standard unit is mol/m 3, although more practical units, such as mole per litre (mol/L) are used.

Molar fraction

The molar fraction or mole fraction of a substance in a mixture (such as a solution) is the number of moles of the compound in one sample of the mixture, divided by the total number of moles of all components. For example, if 20 g of NaCl is dissolved in 100 g of water, the amounts of the two substances in the solution will be (20 g)/(58.443 g/mol) = 0.34221 mol and (100 g)/(18.015 g/mol) = 5.5509 mol, respectively; and the molar fraction of NaCl will be 0.34221/(0.34221 + 5.5509) = 0.05807.

In a mixture of gases, the partial pressure of each component is proportional to its molar ratio.


Avogadro, who inspired the Avogadro constant Amadeo Avogadro.png
Avogadro, who inspired the Avogadro constant

The history of the mole is intertwined with that of molecular mass, atomic mass units, and the Avogadro constant.

The first table of standard atomic weight was published by John Dalton (1766–1844) in 1805, based on a system in which the relative atomic mass of hydrogen was defined as 1. These relative atomic masses were based on the stoichiometric proportions of chemical reaction and compounds, a fact that greatly aided their acceptance: It was not necessary for a chemist to subscribe to atomic theory (an unproven hypothesis at the time) to make practical use of the tables. This would lead to some confusion between atomic masses (promoted by proponents of atomic theory) and equivalent weights (promoted by its opponents and which sometimes differed from relative atomic masses by an integer factor), which would last throughout much of the nineteenth century.

Jöns Jacob Berzelius (1779–1848) was instrumental in the determination of relative atomic masses to ever-increasing accuracy. He was also the first chemist to use oxygen as the standard to which other masses were referred. Oxygen is a useful standard, as, unlike hydrogen, it forms compounds with most other elements, especially metals. However, he chose to fix the atomic mass of oxygen as 100, which did not catch on.

Charles Frédéric Gerhardt (1816–56), Henri Victor Regnault (1810–78) and Stanislao Cannizzaro (1826–1910) expanded on Berzelius' works, resolving many of the problems of unknown stoichiometry of compounds, and the use of atomic masses attracted a large consensus by the time of the Karlsruhe Congress (1860). The convention had reverted to defining the atomic mass of hydrogen as 1, although at the level of precision of measurements at that time – relative uncertainties of around 1% – this was numerically equivalent to the later standard of oxygen = 16. However the chemical convenience of having oxygen as the primary atomic mass standard became ever more evident with advances in analytical chemistry and the need for ever more accurate atomic mass determinations.

The name mole is an 1897 translation of the German unit Mol, coined by the chemist Wilhelm Ostwald in 1894 from the German word Molekül (molecule). [9] [10] [11] The related concept of equivalent mass had been in use at least a century earlier. [12]


Developments in mass spectrometry led to the adoption of oxygen-16 as the standard substance, in lieu of natural oxygen.[ citation needed ]

The oxygen-16 definition was replaced with one based on carbon-12 during the 1960s. The mole was defined by International Bureau of Weights and Measures as "the amount of substance of a system which contains as many elementary entities as there are atoms in 0.012 kilogram of carbon-12." Thus, by that definition, one mole of pure 12C had a mass of exactly 12  g. [4] [7] The four different definitions were equivalent to within 1%.

Scale basisScale basis
relative to 12C = 12
Relative deviation
from the 12C = 12 scale
Atomic mass of hydrogen = 11.00794(7)−0.788%
Atomic mass of oxygen = 1615.9994(3)+0.00375%
Relative atomic mass of 16O = 1615.9949146221(15)+0.0318%

Because a dalton, a unit commonly used to measure atomic mass, is exactly 1/12 of the mass of a carbon-12 atom, this definition of the mole entailed that the mass of one mole of a compound or element in grams was numerically equal to the average mass of one molecule or atom of the substance in daltons, and that the number of daltons in a gram was equal to the number of elementary entities in a mole. Because the mass of a nucleon (i.e. a proton or neutron) is approximately 1 dalton and the nucleons in an atom's nucleus make up the overwhelming majority of its mass, this definition also entailed that the mass of one mole of a substance was roughly equivalent to the number of nucleons in one atom or molecule of that substance.

Since the definition of the gram was not mathematically tied to that of the dalton, the number of molecules per mole NA (the Avogadro constant) had to be determined experimentally. The experimental value adopted by CODATA in 2010 is NA = 6.02214129(27)×1023 mol−1. [13] In 2011 the measurement was refined to 6.02214078(18)×1023 mol−1. [14]

The mole was made the seventh SI base unit in 1971 by the 14th CGPM. [15]

2019 redefinition of SI base units

In 2011, the 24th meeting of the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) agreed to a plan for a possible revision of the SI base unit definitions at an undetermined date.

On 16 November 2018, after a meeting of scientists from more than 60 countries at the CGPM in Versailles, France, all SI base units were defined in terms of physical constants. This meant that each SI unit, including the mole, would not be defined in terms of any physical objects but rather they would be defined by physical constants that are, in their nature, exact. [2]

Such changes officially came into effect on 20 May 2019. Following such changes, "one mole" of a substance was redefined as containing "exactly 6.02214076×1023 elementary entities" of that substance. [16] [17]


Since its adoption into the International System of Units in 1971, numerous criticisms of the concept of the mole as a unit like the metre or the second have arisen:

In chemistry, it has been known since Proust's law of definite proportions (1794) that knowledge of the mass of each of the components in a chemical system is not sufficient to define the system. Amount of substance can be described as mass divided by Proust's "definite proportions", and contains information that is missing from the measurement of mass alone. As demonstrated by Dalton's law of partial pressures (1803), a measurement of mass is not even necessary to measure the amount of substance (although in practice it is usual). There are many physical relationships between amount of substance and other physical quantities, the most notable one being the ideal gas law (where the relationship was first demonstrated in 1857). The term "mole" was first used in a textbook describing these colligative properties. [22]

Similar units

Like chemists, chemical engineers use the unit mole extensively, but different unit multiples may be more suitable for industrial use. For example, the SI unit for volume is the cubic metre, a much larger unit than the commonly used litre in the chemical laboratory. When amount of substance is also expressed in kmol (1000 mol) in industrial-scaled processes, the numerical value of molarity remains the same.

For convenience in avoiding conversions in the imperial (or US customary units), some engineers adopted the pound-mole (notation lb-mol or lbmol), which is defined as the number of entities in 12 lb of 12C. One lb-mol is equal to 453.59237 mol, [23] which value is the same as the number of grams in an international avoirdupois pound.

In the metric system, chemical engineers once used the kilogram-mole (notation kg-mol), which is defined as the number of entities in 12 kg of 12C, and often referred to the mole as the gram-mole (notation g-mol), when dealing with laboratory data. [23]

Late 20th-century chemical engineering practice came to use the kilomole (kmol), which is numerically identical to the kilogram-mole, but whose name and symbol adopt the SI convention for standard multiples of metric units – thus, kmol means 1000 mol. This is equivalent to the use of kg instead of g. The use of kmol is not only for "magnitude convenience" but also makes the equations used for modelling chemical engineering systems coherent. For example, the conversion of a flowrate of kg/s to kmol/s only requires the molecular mass without the factor 1000 unless the basic SI unit of mol/s were to be used.

Greenhouse and growth chamber lighting for plants is sometimes expressed in micromoles per square metre per second, where 1 mol photons = 6.02×1023 photons. [24] One mole of photons is sometimes referred to as an einstein.

Derived units and SI multiples

The only SI derived unit with a special name derived from the mole is the katal, defined as one mole per second of catalytic activity. Like other SI units, the mole can also be modified by adding a metric prefix that multiplies it by a power of 10:

SI multiples of mole (mol)
ValueSI symbolNameValueSI symbolName
10−1 moldmoldecimole101 moldamoldecamole
10−2 molcmolcentimole102 molhmolhectomole
10−3 molmmolmillimole103 molkmolkilomole
10−6 molµmolmicromole106 molMmolmegamole
10−9 molnmolnanomole109 molGmolgigamole
10−12 molpmolpicomole1012 molTmolteramole
10−15 molfmolfemtomole1015 molPmolpetamole
10−18 molamolattomole1018 molEmolexamole
10−21 molzmolzeptomole1021 molZmolzettamole
10−24 molymolyoctomole1024 molYmolyottamole
10−27 molrmolrontomole1027 molRmolronnamole
10−30 molqmolquectomole1030 molQmolquettamole

One fmol is exactly 602,214,076 molecules; attomole and smaller quantities cannot be exactly realized. The yoctomole, equal to around 0.6 of an individual molecule, did make appearances in scientific journals in the year the yocto- prefix was officially implemented. [25]

Mole Day

October 23, denoted 10/23 in the US, is recognized by some as Mole Day. [26] It is an informal holiday in honor of the unit among chemists. The date is derived from the Avogadro number, which is approximately 6.022×1023. It starts at 6:02 a.m. and ends at 6:02 p.m. Alternatively, some chemists celebrate June 2 (06/02), June 22 (6/22), or 6 February (06.02), a reference to the 6.02 or 6.022 part of the constant. [27] [28] [29]

See also

Related Research Articles

The molecular mass (m) is the mass of a given molecule: it is measured in daltons. Different molecules of the same compound may have different molecular masses because they contain different isotopes of an element. The related quantity relative molecular mass, as defined by IUPAC, is the ratio of the mass of a molecule to the unified atomic mass unit and is unitless. The molecular mass and relative molecular mass are distinct from but related to the molar mass. The molar mass is defined as the mass of a given substance divided by the amount of a substance and is expressed in g/mol. That makes the molar mass an average of many particles or molecules, and the molecular mass the mass of one specific particle or molecule. The molar mass is usually the more appropriate figure when dealing with macroscopic (weigh-able) quantities of a substance.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stoichiometry</span> Calculation of relative quantities of reactants and products in chemical reactions

Stoichiometry refers to the relationship between the quantities of reactants and products before, during, and following chemical reactions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Avogadro constant</span> Fundamental physical constant representing the molar number of entities

The Avogadro constant, commonly denoted NA or L, is the proportionality factor that relates the number of constituent particles (usually molecules, atoms or ions) in a sample with the amount of substance in that sample. It is an SI defining constant with an exact value of 6.02214076×1023 reciprocal moles. It is named after the Italian scientist Amedeo Avogadro by Stanislao Cannizzaro, who explained this number four years after Avogadro's death while at the Karlsruhe Congress in 1860.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Amedeo Avogadro</span> Italian scientist (1776–1856)

Lorenzo Romano Amedeo Carlo Avogadro, Count of Quaregna and Cerreto (, also, Italian: [ameˈdɛːo avoˈɡaːdro]; 9 August 1776 – 9 July 1856) was an Italian scientist, most noted for his contribution to molecular theory now known as Avogadro's law, which states that equal volumes of gases under the same conditions of temperature and pressure will contain equal numbers of molecules. In tribute to him, the ratio of the number of elementary entities (atoms, molecules, ions or other particles) in a substance to its amount of substance (the latter having the unit mole), 6.02214076×1023 mol−1, is known as the Avogadro constant. This constant is denoted NA, and is one of the seven defining constants of the SI.

The dalton or unified atomic mass unit is a non-SI unit of mass widely used in physics and chemistry. It is defined as 112 of the mass of an unbound neutral atom of carbon-12 in its nuclear and electronic ground state and at rest. The atomic mass constant, denoted mu, is defined identically, giving mu = m(12C)/12 = 1 Da.

The volumetric heat capacity of a material is the heat capacity of a sample of the substance divided by the volume of the sample. It is the amount of energy that must be added, in the form of heat, to one unit of volume of the material in order to cause an increase of one unit in its temperature. The SI unit of volumetric heat capacity is joule per kelvin per cubic meter, J⋅K−1⋅m−3.

The molar gas constant is denoted by the symbol R or R. It is the molar equivalent to the Boltzmann constant, expressed in units of energy per temperature increment per amount of substance, i.e. the pressure–volume product, rather than energy per temperature increment per particle. The constant is also a combination of the constants from Boyle's law, Charles's law, Avogadro's law, and Gay-Lussac's law. It is a physical constant that is featured in many fundamental equations in the physical sciences, such as the ideal gas law, the Arrhenius equation, and the Nernst equation.

The van der Waals radius, rw, of an atom is the radius of an imaginary hard sphere representing the distance of closest approach for another atom. It is named after Johannes Diderik van der Waals, winner of the 1910 Nobel Prize in Physics, as he was the first to recognise that atoms were not simply points and to demonstrate the physical consequences of their size through the van der Waals equation of state.

In chemistry, the molar mass of a chemical compound is defined as the ratio between the mass and the amount of substance of any sample of said compound. The molar mass is a bulk, not molecular, property of a substance. The molar mass is an average of many instances of the compound, which often vary in mass due to the presence of isotopes. Most commonly, the molar mass is computed from the standard atomic weights and is thus a terrestrial average and a function of the relative abundance of the isotopes of the constituent atoms on Earth. The molar mass is appropriate for converting between the mass of a substance and the amount of a substance for bulk quantities.

Avogadro's law or Avogadro-Ampère's hypothesis is an experimental gas law relating the volume of a gas to the amount of substance of gas present. The law is a specific case of the ideal gas law. A modern statement is:

Avogadro's law states that "equal volumes of all gases, at the same temperature and pressure, have the same number of molecules."

For a given mass of an ideal gas, the volume and amount (moles) of the gas are directly proportional if the temperature and pressure are constant.

Molar concentration is a measure of the concentration of a chemical species, in particular of a solute in a solution, in terms of amount of substance per unit volume of solution. In chemistry, the most commonly used unit for molarity is the number of moles per liter, having the unit symbol mol/L or mol/dm3 in SI unit. A solution with a concentration of 1 mol/L is said to be 1 molar, commonly designated as 1 M.

In chemistry, the amount of substance n in a given sample of matter is defined as the quantity or number of discrete atomic-scale particles in it divided by the Avogadro constant NA. The particles or entities may be molecules, atoms, ions, electrons, or other, depending on the context, and should be specified (e.g. amount of sodium chloride nNaCl). The value of the Avogadro constant NA has been defined as 6.02214076×1023 mol−1. The mole (symbol: mol) is a unit of amount of substance in the International System of Units, defined (since 2019) by fixing the Avogadro constant at the given value. Sometimes, the amount of substance is referred to as the chemical amount.

Carbon-12 (12C) is the most abundant of the two stable isotopes of carbon, amounting to 98.93% of element carbon on Earth; its abundance is due to the triple-alpha process by which it is created in stars. Carbon-12 is of particular importance in its use as the standard from which atomic masses of all nuclides are measured, thus, its atomic mass is exactly 12 daltons by definition. Carbon-12 is composed of 6 protons, 6 neutrons, and 6 electrons.

The molar heat capacity of a chemical substance is the amount of energy that must be added, in the form of heat, to one mole of the substance in order to cause an increase of one unit in its temperature. Alternatively, it is the heat capacity of a sample of the substance divided by the amount of substance of the sample; or also the specific heat capacity of the substance times its molar mass. The SI unit of molar heat capacity is joule per kelvin per mole, J⋅K−1⋅mol−1.

In chemistry, equivalent weight is the mass of one equivalent, that is the mass of a given substance which will combine with or displace a fixed quantity of another substance. The equivalent weight of an element is the mass which combines with or displaces 1.008 gram of hydrogen or 8.0 grams of oxygen or 35.5 grams of chlorine. These values correspond to the atomic weight divided by the usual valence; for oxygen as example that is 16.0 g / 2 = 8.0 g.

The number density is an intensive quantity used to describe the degree of concentration of countable objects in physical space: three-dimensional volumetric number density, two-dimensional areal number density, or one-dimensional linear number density. Population density is an example of areal number density. The term number concentration is sometimes used in chemistry for the same quantity, particularly when comparing with other concentrations.

The molar mass constant, usually denoted by Mu, is a physical constant defined as one twelfth of the molar mass of carbon-12: Mu = M(12C)/12. The molar mass of any element or compound is its relative atomic mass multiplied by the molar mass constant.

This glossary of chemistry terms is a list of terms and definitions relevant to chemistry, including chemical laws, diagrams and formulae, laboratory tools, glassware, and equipment. Chemistry is a physical science concerned with the composition, structure, and properties of matter, as well as the changes it undergoes during chemical reactions; it features an extensive vocabulary and a significant amount of jargon.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Atomic mass</span> Rest mass of an atom in its ground state

The atomic mass (ma or m) is the mass of an atom. Although the SI unit of mass is the kilogram (symbol: kg), atomic mass is often expressed in the non-SI unit dalton (symbol: Da) – equivalently, unified atomic mass unit (u). 1 Da is defined as 112 of the mass of a free carbon-12 atom at rest in its ground state. The protons and neutrons of the nucleus account for nearly all of the total mass of atoms, with the electrons and nuclear binding energy making minor contributions. Thus, the numeric value of the atomic mass when expressed in daltons has nearly the same value as the mass number. Conversion between mass in kilograms and mass in daltons can be done using the atomic mass constant .

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2019 redefinition of the SI base units</span> Definition of the units kg, A, K and mol

In 2019, four of the seven SI base units specified in the International System of Quantities were redefined in terms of natural physical constants, rather than human artifacts such as the standard kilogram. Effective 20 May 2019, the 144th anniversary of the Metre Convention, the kilogram, ampere, kelvin, and mole are now defined by setting exact numerical values, when expressed in SI units, for the Planck constant, the elementary electric charge, the Boltzmann constant, and the Avogadro constant, respectively. The second, metre, and candela had previously been redefined using physical constants. The four new definitions aimed to improve the SI without changing the value of any units, ensuring continuity with existing measurements. In November 2018, the 26th General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) unanimously approved these changes, which the International Committee for Weights and Measures (CIPM) had proposed earlier that year after determining that previously agreed conditions for the change had been met. These conditions were satisfied by a series of experiments that measured the constants to high accuracy relative to the old SI definitions, and were the culmination of decades of research.


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