Science, Tech, Math › Science Predicting Formulas of Compounds with Polyatomic Ions Share Flipboard Email Print Todd Helmenstine Science Chemistry Basics Chemical Laws Molecules Periodic Table Projects & Experiments Scientific Method Biochemistry Physical Chemistry Medical Chemistry Chemistry In Everyday Life Famous Chemists Activities for Kids Abbreviations & Acronyms Biology Physics Geology Astronomy Weather & Climate By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Chemistry Expert Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Updated January 30, 2020 Polyatomic ions are ions made up of more than one atomic element. This example problem demonstrates how to predict the molecular formulas of several compounds involving polyatomic ions. Polyatomic Ion Problem Predict the formulas of these compounds, which contain polyatomic ions. barium hydroxideammonium phosphatepotassium sulfate Solution The formulas of compounds containing polyatomic ions are found in much the same way as formulas are found for monoatomic ions. Make sure you are familiar with the most common polyatomic ions. Look at the locations of the elements on the Periodic Table. Atoms in the same column as each other tend to exhibit similar characteristics, including the number of electrons the elements would need to gain or lose to resemble the nearest noble gas atom. To determine common ionic compounds formed by elements, keep the following in mind: Group I ions (alkali metals) have +1 charges.Group 2 ions (alkaline earth metals) have +2 charges.Group 6 ions (nonmetals) have -2 charges.Group 7 ions (halides) have -1 charges.There is no simple way to predict the charges of the transition metals. Look on a table listing charges (valences) for possible values. For introductory and general chemistry courses, the +1, +2, and +3 charges are most often used. When you write the formula for an ionic compound, remember that the positive ion is always listed first. When there are two or more polyatomic ions in a formula, enclose the polyatomic ion in parentheses. Write down the information you have for the charges of the component ions and balance them to answer the problem. Barium has a +2 charge and hydroxide has a -1 charge, therefore1 Ba2+ ion is required to balance 2 OH- ionsAmmonium has a +1 charge and phosphate has a -3 charge, therefore3 NH4+ ions are required to balance 1 PO43- ionPotassium has a +1 charge and sulfate has a -2 charge, therefore2 K+ ions are required to balance 1 SO42- ion Answer Ba(OH)2(NH4)3PO4K2SO4 The charges listed above for atoms within groups are the common charges, but you should be aware that the elements sometimes take on different charges. See the table of the valences of the elements for a list of the charges that the elements have been known to assume. For example, carbon commonly assumes either a +4 or -4 oxidation state, while copper usually has as +1 or +2 oxidation state.