Simplest Formula Definition in Chemistry

The simplest formula or empirical formula for glucose indicates each molecule has hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen in a ratio of 2:1:1.
The simplest formula or empirical formula for glucose indicates each molecule has hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen in a ratio of 2:1:1. PASIEKA / Getty Images

The simplest formula of a chemical compound is a formula that shows the ratio of elements present in the compound in terms of the simplest positive ratio of atoms. The ratios are denoted by subscripts next to the element symbols. Simplest formula is also known as empirical formula.

Simplest Formula Examples

Some times the simplest formula is the same as the molecular formula. A good example is water, which has both the simplest and molecular formula H2O. For larger molecules, the simplest and molecular formula are different, but the molecular formula is always a multiple of the simplest formula.

Glucose has a molecular formula of C6H12O6. It contains 2 moles of hydrogen for every mole of carbon and oxygen. The simplest or empirical formula for glucose is CH2O.