What is an ion?
An ion is a charged atom or molecule. It is charged because the number of electrons do not equal the number of protons in the atom or molecule. An atom can acquire a positive charge or a negative charge depending on whether the number of electrons in an atom is greater or less then the number of protons in the atom.
When an atom is attracted to another atom because it has an unequal number of electrons and protons, the atom is called an ION. If the atom has more electrons than protons, it is a negative ion, or ANION. If it has more protons than electrons,it is a positive ion.
An ion (/ˈaɪən, -ɒn/) is an atom or a molecule in which the total number of electrons is not equal to the total number of protons, giving the atom or molecule a net positive or negative electrical charge. Ions can be created, by either chemical or physical means, via ionization.
In chemical terms, if a neutral atom loses one or more electrons, it has a net positive charge and is known as a cation.
If an atom gains electrons, it has a net negative charge and is known as an anion.
An ion consisting of a single atom is an atomic or monatomic ion; if it consists of two or more atoms, it is a molecular or polyatomic ion. Because of their electric charges, cations and anions attract each other and readily form ionic compounds, such as salts.
In the case of physical ionization of a medium, such as a gas, what are known as "ion pairs" are created by ion impact, and each pair consists of a free electron and a positive ion.
Looking at Ions
The atomic number of an element, also called a proton number, tells you the number of protons or positive particles in an atom. A normal atom has a neutral charge with equal numbers of positive and negative particles. That means an atom with a neutral charge is one where the number of electrons is equal to the atomic number. Ions are atoms with extra electrons or missing electrons. When you are missing an electron or two, you have a positive charge. When you have an extra electron or two, you have a negative charge.
What do you do if you are a sodium (Na) atom? You have eleven electrons — one too many to have an entire shell filled. You need to find another element that will take that electron away from you. When you lose that electron, you will you’ll have full shells. Whenever an atom has full shells, we say it is "happy." Let's look at chlorine (Cl). Chlorine has seventeen electrons and only needs one more to fill its third shell and be "happy." Chlorine will take your extra sodium electron and leave you with 10 electrons inside of two filled shells. You are now a happy atom too. You are also an ion and missing one electron. That missing electron gives you a positive charge. You are still the element sodium, but you are now a sodium ion (Na+). You have one less electron than your atomic number.
So now you've become a sodium ion. You have ten electrons. That's the same number of electrons as neon (Ne). But you aren't neon. Since you're missing an electron, you aren't really a complete sodium atom either. As an ion you are now something completely new. Your whole goal as an atom was to become a "happy atom" with completely filled electron shells. Now you have those filled shells. You have a lower energy. You lost an electron and you are "happy." So what makes you interesting to other atoms? Now that you have given up the electron, you are quite electrically attractive. Other electrically charged atoms (ions) of the opposite charge (negative) are now looking at you and seeing a good partner to bond with. That's where the chlorine comes in. It's not only chlorine. Almost any ion with a negative charge will be interested in bonding with you.
Don't get worried about the big word. Electrovalence is just another word for something that has given up or taken electrons and become an ion. If you look at the periodic table, you might notice that elements on the left side usually become positively charged ions (cations) and elements on the right side get a negative charge (anions). That trend means that the left side has a positive valence and the right side has a negative valence. Valence is a measure of how much an atom wants to bond with other atoms. It is also a measure of how many electrons are excited about bonding with other atoms.
There are two main types of bonding, covalent and electrovalent. You may have heard of the term "ionic bonds." Ionic bonds are electrovalent bonds. They are just groups of charged ions held together by electric forces. Scientists call these groups "ionic agglomerates." When in the presence of other ions, the electrovalent bonds are weaker because of outside electrical forces and attractions. Sodium and chlorine ions alone have a very strong bond, but as soon as you put those ions in a solution with H+, OH-, F- or Mg++ ions, there are charged distractions that break the Na-Cl bond.
Look at sodium chloride (NaCl) one more time. Salt is a very strong bond when it is sitting on your table. It would be nearly impossible to break those ionic/electrovalent bonds. However, if you put that salt into some water (H2O), the bonds break very quickly. It happens easily because of the electrical attraction of the water. Now you have sodium (Na+) and chlorine (Cl-) ions floating around the solution. You should remember that ionic bonds are normally strong, but they are very weak in water.
An ion is an atom or group of atoms in which the number of electron s is different from the number of proton s. If the number of electrons is less than the number of protons, the particle is a positive ion, also called a cation. If the number of electrons is greater than the number of protons, the particle is a negative ion, also called an anion.
When an atom of an element is short an electron, a plus sign is placed after its chemical symbol as a superscript to indicate that fact. For example, a carbon atom with 5 electrons (the nucleus has 6 protons) is symbolized C + . If the element is short 2 or more electrons, a numeral is also placed in the superscript, directly before the plus sign, to indicate the extent of the electron deficiency. A carbon atom with 4 electrons is therefore symbolized C 2+ , and a carbon atom with 3 electrons is symbolized C 3+ .
If an atom of an element has an excess of an electron, a minus sign is placed after its chemical symbol as a superscript. If there are 2 or more extra electrons, a numeral is included to indicate the extent of the electron surplus. An oxygen atom with 9 electrons (the nucleus has 8 protons) is symbolized O - . An oxygen atom with 10 electrons is symbolized O2- , and an oxygen atom with 11 electrons is symbolized O 3- .
A compound , as well as individual atom, can be ionized. A common example is nitrate, which consists of a nitrogen atom and 3 oxygen atoms (NO 3 ) in the form of an anion; this is symbolized NO 3 - because it normally has a surplus of a single electron. Another example is sulfate, which consists of a sulfur atom and 4 oxygen atoms (SO 4 ), which occurs with an excess of 2 electrons and is symbolized SO 4 2- .
Ionized substances often behave differently than when they are not ionized. A common phenomenon is for an electrical insulator (non-conductor) to become electrically conductive when it is ionized. In the Earth's upper atmosphere, ultraviolet radiation from the Sun causes ionization of certain gases. As a result, electromagnetic waves can refracted, and their polarization shifted, at certain frequencies when the waves pass through the gases. This makes long-distance radio communication possible, without the aid of satellites, at some frequencies. The ionization occurs in layers which, taken together, form the Earth's ionosphere .