A molecule is the smallest particle in a chemical element or compound that has the chemical properties of that element or compound. Molecules are made up of atoms that are held together by chemical bonds. These bonds form as a result of the sharing or exchange of electrons among atoms. The atoms of certain elements readily bond with other atoms to form molecules. Examples of such elements are oxygen and chlorine. The atoms of some elements do not easily bond with other atoms. Examples are neon and argon.
Molecules can vary greatly in size and complexity. The element helium is a one-atom molecule. Some molecules consist of two atoms of the same element. For example, O2 is the oxygen molecule most commonly found in the earth's atmosphere; it has two atoms of oxygen. However, under certain circumstances, oxygen atoms bond into triplets (O3), forming a molecule known as ozone. Other familiar molecules include water, consisting of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (H2O), carbon dioxide, consisting of one carbon atom bonded to two oxygen atoms (CO2), and sulfuric acid, consisting of two hydrogen atoms, one sulfur atom, and four oxygen atoms (H2 SO4).