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Any substance composed of identical molecules consisting of atoms of two or more elements. Millions are known, each unique, with unique properties. Most common materials are mixtures of compounds. Pure compounds can be obtained by physical separation methods, such as precipitation and distillation. Compounds can be broken down into their constituents to various degrees or changed into new compounds by chemical reactions. Atoms always combine into molecules in fixed proportions, distinguishing compounds from solutions and other mechanical mixtures. Compounds are often classified as inorganic or organic compounds; coordination complexes, which contain metal atoms (usually transition elements) bonded to ligands that may be organic, are somewhat in between. Compounds may also be classified by whether they have ionic or covalent bonds (many include both types).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on chemical compound, visit Britannica.com.
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