Avocado, Oh I mean Avogadro’s number!

First things first, what is a mole? It’s not a furry (and very ugly) little animal.


In chemistry a mole is something that chemists use in order to count extremely small things like atoms and molecules. The whole idea of the mole was thought of by Lorenzo Romano Amedeo Carlo Avogadro, but we will  refer to him as simply, Avogadro. He thought that if you had two gases, at equal volume and pressure, they contain a equal number of particles. A simpler way of stating this is that a gas’ volume is proportional to how many atoms it has.


This idea was originally shot down by Avogadro’s fellow scientists. It was not like anything they had ever thought of before. Avogadro’s idea was slightly “radical”, because it says that quite different elements, such as nitrogen and hydrogen, still have the same number of molecules in the same volume of an ideal gas. While in real world settings this is not strictly true, it is statistically quite close, and so the ideal model still has a great deal of value. This news can seem very surprising, especially since we are taught that each element has very specific atomic numbers, and can have their own individual mass weight. Unfortunately, Avogadro died before his friends could realize what a genius he was! 😦

When you think of a dozen what do you think of? 12, right? Well, when scientists hear Avogadro’s number or a mole, they immediately think 6.02 X 10^23. Once you become a pro at chemistry, you will be able to talk about a mole of Carbon as easy as you would talk about a dozen donuts. If you really think about it, the whole idea of a mole makes a lot of sense. Scientists needed a way of quickly and easily counting atoms (which are extremely difficult to count because they are so small), just like bakers needed a way of packaging donuts (dozen). The invention of the “mole” is not only a huge help to scientists, but it also helped lay the foundation for the atomic theory!

If you need any extra help on Moles, feel free to view the TED video for Avogadro’s number at  http://www.youtube.com/redirect?q=http%3A%2F%2Fed.ted.com%2Flessons%2Fdaniel-dulek-how-big-is-a-mole-not-the-animal-the-other-one&session token=edhFSc4VMiommmbk6VLhWlbpJEF8MTM5NDU5ODUyMkAxMzk0NTEyMTIy.



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