A chemical formula or molecular formula is a way of expressing information about the atom
The atom is a basic unit of matter that consists of a dense central nucleus surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged electrons. The atomic nucleus contains a mix of positively charged protons and electrically neutral neutrons...
s that constitute a particular chemical compound
A chemical compound is a pure chemical substance consisting of two or more different chemical elements that can be separated into simpler substances by chemical reactions. Chemical compounds have a unique and defined chemical structure; they consist of a fixed ratio of atoms that are held together...
The chemical formula identifies each constituent element
A chemical element is a pure chemical substance consisting of one type of atom distinguished by its atomic number, which is the number of protons in its nucleus. Familiar examples of elements include carbon, oxygen, aluminum, iron, copper, gold, mercury, and lead.As of November 2011, 118 elements...
by its chemical symbol
A chemical symbol is a 1- or 2-letter internationally agreed code for a chemical element, usually derived from the name of the element, often in Latin. Only the first letter is capitalised...
and indicates the number of atoms of each element found in each discrete molecule
A molecule is an electrically neutral group of at least two atoms held together by covalent chemical bonds. Molecules are distinguished from ions by their electrical charge...
of that compound. If a molecule contains more than one atom of a particular element, this quantity is indicated using a subscript after the chemical symbol (although 18th-century books often used superscripts) and also can be combined by more chemical elements.