It’s National Mole Day on October 23 (and no, we’re talking about beauty marks on your skin or those little furry creatures with funky paws.) National Mole Day celebrates the mole the Italian scientist Amedeo Avogadro coined in 1811. The mole, sometimes called Avogadro’s Number, is a unit of measurement used in chemistry. And, since this is National Chemistry Month, it is a fitting time to celebrate the mole.
Don’t be intimidated by the mole. It’s just a unit of measurement. We use units of measurement every day. Ever measured a teaspoon of sugar? A pound of flour? Units of measurements represent quantities of things. Larger units of measurement represent bundles of smaller units. It’s easier to call a ton of bricks “a ton of bricks” than to call it “2,000 pounds of bricks.” Get the idea?
In chemistry, some things, like atoms and molecules, can’t be measured very well in grams, so Avogadro developed the mole, which is the same number of particles found in 12.000 grams of carbon-12 or about 6.02 x 1023. A mole of carbon atoms is 6.02 x 1023 carbon atoms. A mole of chemistry books is 6.02 x 1023 chemistry books. And a mole of French fries is…well, you get the idea.
Moles make it easier for chemists—and chemistry students—to convert atoms and molecules into grams, which makes it easier to understand the wackier measurements of chemistry. So, next time you want to talk about 6.02 x 1023 of something, just call it a mole instead.