An ion is an electrically charged atom or group of atoms. It can be made from an atom, or from a group of atoms (molecule). It is "charged" so it will move near electricity. This is because atoms are made of three smaller parts:
- neutrons (with no charge),
- number of protons with positive charges and
- equal number of negatively-charged electrons.
An ion has unequal numbers of protons and electrons. Making an ion from an atom or molecule is called ionization. Two or more ions can combine to make a chemical compound. The link between the ions is called an ionic bond.
The charge on a proton is chosen as +1 (positively charged). The charge on an electron is opposite to the charge on the proton. The charge on the electron is -1 (negatively charged). An atom that is ionized makes two parts, one positive, and one negatively charged. For example, a neutral hydrogen atom has one proton and one electron. Ionizing the atom breaks it into two parts: (1) a positively charged hydrogen ion, H+ (2) a negatively charged electron.
A liquid with ions is called an electrolyte. A gas with lots of ions is called a plasma. When ions move, it is called electricity. For example, in a wire, the metal ions do not move, but the electrons move as electricity. A positive ion and a negative ion will move together. Two ions of the same charge will move apart. When ions move they also make magnetic fields.
Many ions are colourless. Elements in the main groups in the Periodic Table form colourless ions. Some ions are coloured. The transition metals usually form coloured ions.
In physics, atomic nuclei that have been completely ionized are called charged particles. These are ones in alpha radiation.
Ionization happens by giving atoms high energy. This is done using electrical voltage or by high-energy ionizing radiation or high temperature.
A simple ion is formed from a single atom.
Polyatomic ions are formed from a number of atoms. Polyatomic ions usually consist of all non-metal atoms. But sometimes the polyatomic ion can have a metallic atom too.
Positive ions are called cations. They are attracted to cathodes (negatively charged electrodes). (Cation is pronounced "cat eye on", not "kay shun".) All simple metal ions are cations.
Negative ions are called anions. They are attracted to anodes (positively charged electrodes). All simple non-metal ions (except H+, which is a proton) are anions.
Transition metals can form more than one simple cation with different charges.
Most ions have a charge of less than 4, but some can have higher charges.
Michael Faraday was the first person to write a theory about ions, in 1830. In his theory, he said what the portions of molecules were like that moved to anions or cations. Svante August Arrhenius showed how this happened. He wrote this in his doctoral dissertation in 1884 (University of Uppsala). The university did not accept his theory at first (he only just passed his degree). But in 1903, he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the same idea.
In Greek ion is like the word "go". "Anion" and "cation" mean "up-goer" and "down-goer". "Anode" and "cathode" are "way up" and "way down".
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Brescia, Frank; Arents, John; Meislich, Herbert; Turk, Amos (1966). Fundamentals of Chemistry: A Modern Introduction (First ed.). Academic Press. p. 5.