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What is a Binary Compound? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:04 The Prefix Bi
  • 0:29 What Is a Binary Compound?
  • 1:32 Examples of Binary Compounds
  • 3:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson will teach you the definition of a binary compound and go over several examples of binary compounds and non-binary compounds so you can become a pro at spotting both!

The Prefix Bi

Bicycle, biped, biceps, Bieber. Ok, maybe not the last one. But the first three, what do they all have in common? They all have two of something because they have a similar prefix of bi-, which means two. That's exactly what a binary compound involves as well. Let's figure out what this is and what it is not and then go over a few examples of binary compounds.

What Is A Binary Compound?

In chemistry, a binary compound is something consisting of precisely two elements. An element is a type of substance that can't be further divided into simpler substances through chemical methods. Any of those boxes on a periodic table of elements represent an element. A few examples of chemical elements are hydrogen, oxygen, and iron. This means that a binary compound will be composed of two different chemical elements.

In a binary compound, there may be only one of each element. We see this with sodium chloride (salt) NaCl, which has one sodium (Na) and one chlorine (Cl). Still, we see some binary compounds that may have more than one of each element, like nitrous oxide N2O that has two nitrogen (N) and one oxygen (O). N2O is also called laughing gas, and you'll probably encounter it if you ever have to make a trip to the dentist to get your wisdom teeth removed. From acids to salts, binary compounds are always nearby.

Examples of Binary Compounds

Let's take a little trip to see some real-world example of binary compounds. First, let's go a nearby river for a swim. You'll see H2O absolutely everywhere. What is H2O? It's water. Is it a binary compound? Well, it contains two different chemical elements: hydrogen and oxygen. Thus, it's a binary compound.

The river turns out to be too cold to swim in comfortably, but we can pan for gold. In fact, you get really lucky and spot some gold in your pan! Is gold, or Au, a binary compound? Nope, gold is just one chemical element (Au).

Since we really can't buy much with gold in this day and age, we decide to leave and go to a gold dealer to exchange it for some money. On our way there, we drive by a farm where we smell something really pungent. It's ammonia, or NH3, which is used in fertilizers. Is this a binary compound? Yep, it contains two elements, nitrogen and hydrogen.

As we try to get away from this terrible smell, we unfortunately ride right past a factory where the smell of rotten eggs is really overwhelming. That's hydrogen sulfide, or H2S. By now, we know that this is clearly a binary compound as it is made up of the two elements hydrogen and sulfur.

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