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Naming Chemical Compounds

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Before the structural basis of chemical substances became established compounds were named after people, places or particular characteristics. When chemistry was an infant science there was no system for naming compounds. Names such of lead, blue vitriol, quicklime, gypsum and laughing gas were coined by early chemists.

Nearly 5 million chemical compounds are currently known. Memorizing common names for these compounds would be an impossible task. Without a system for naming compounds coping with this multitude of substances would be a hopeless task. Chemical nomenclature is the systematic naming of chemical compounds.

Rules for Naming Chemical Compounds

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The rules for naming chemical compounds were developed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and are usually called the IUPAC rules. The IUPAC rules allow chemists to name any compound that contains atoms linked by covalent bonds, but the names of binary compounds contain two elements.

The goal of nomenclature is to develop a name that gives all the necessary information to allow someone else to construct the formula of the compound and vice versa.

How to name chemical compounds?

Rule 1 - The names of all binary compounds end in "-ide." The end of the name of the second element is dropped and "-ide" is attached to the stem that remains as shown in the following table.

Element name changes in binary compounds
Element
Stem
Element's name in the compound
Fluorine fluor- Fluoride
Chlorine
chlor-
Chloride
Bromine
brom-
Bromide
Iodine
iod-
Iodide
Oxygen
ox-
Oxide
Sulfur
sulf-
Sulfide
Nitrogen
nitr- Nitride
Phosphorus
phosph-
Phosphide
Boron bor-
Boride
Carbon
carb-
Carbide
Hydrogen
hydr- Hydride

Rule 2 - The elements are named in the order they appear in the formula, left to right. The names of the two elements are separated with a space.

Rule 3 - The number of atoms of each element is indicated using numerical prefixes.

1 = mono-
2 = di-
3 = tri-
4 = tetra-
5 = penta-
6 = hexa-
7 = hepta-
8 = octa-
9 = nona-
10 = deca-


The mono- prefix is usually not used unless it is important to distinguish between compounds of the same two elements.

Naming of Chemical Compounds

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Many compounds have generic as well as chemical names. Systematic names encode the composition and structure of compounds and are based on a detailed set of rules established by the IUPAC name, but in some instance a more standard chemical name used by the chemical community is given.

Chemical Compound Name

Chemical compound entity extraction is a different type of entity extraction. One cannot refer to a complete dictionary or thesaurus of chemical compound names, as there is practically an infinite number of compound names.

Some of the chemical names are shown below.

S.No
Formula
Chemical name
1 CH4 Methane
2
C2H6
Ethane
3
C3H8
Propane
4
C4H10
Butane
5
C5H12 Pentane
6
C6H14
Hexane
7
C7H16 Heptane
8
C8H18 Octane
9
C9H20
Nonane
10 C10H22 Decane

Naming Chemical Compounds Practice

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The abundance of trival names clearly shows that the naming of the chemical compounds is far from trival. The naming of complex chemical compounds ought to be left to nomenclature experts, and they may find the task rather difficult.

The steps involved in solving the chemical compounds name problems are given below.
  1. Read the problem
  2. Understand precisely what the problem is asking
  3. Identify the chemical principles
  4. Determine the relevant pieces of information
  5. Create a solution pathway
  6. Check the answer


Solved problems based on the concept practice naming chemical compounds are given below.

Solved Examples

Question 1: What is the correct name of this compound CaBr2?
Solution:
 
Ca+ is a positive ion made from a metal.
Br- ions are negative ions made from the non metal bromine.

Metal cations and non metal anions make simple binary ionic compounds. Simple binary ionic compounds are named using the metals name followed by the non metal's stem and the suffix -ide. No prefix like di- or tri- are used to denote the number of ions present in the substance.

The correct name is Calcium bromide.

 

Question 2: What is the correct name for Mg3(PO4)2?
Solution:
 
Mg2+ is a positive ion made from a metal.
PO43- is a negative polyatomic ion made from phosphoric acid.

Metal cations and polyatomic anions make pseudo binary ionic compounds. These compounds are named using the metal's name followed by the correct name of the polyatomic anion. Polyatomic ions are positive or negative ions made from more than one atom.

The correct name of this compound is Magnesium phosphate.