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Giant covalent substances

A giant covalent structure (or a covalent network) has numerous atoms that are covalently bonded in a continuous 3-dimensional network.

Individual molecules cannot be distinguished in this arrangement, and the whole structure can be considered to be one large molecule. However, we can identify an empirical formula based on the repeating units.

The orderly arrangement of silicon and oxygen atoms gives the crystalline appearance of quartz (right).
The orderly arrangement of silicon and oxygen atoms gives the crystalline appearance of quartz (right).

Quartz is a giant covalent structure that has an empirical formula of $$\ce{SiO2}$$. Each silicon atom is shared between two oxygen atoms, and this group of atoms repeats throughout the giant covalent structure.

A molecule of $$\ce{SiO2}$$ can be observed as a single pure quartz crystal.