If one atom, or atoms, has actually a balanced number of electrons (negative charge) and protons (positive charge) they space neutral overall. However, if they room not balanced, they will certainly be charged. These charged types are referred to as ions.

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What is a cation?

A cation has much more protons than electrons, consequently offering it a net confident charge. For a cation come form, one or more electrons have to be lost, typically pulled far by atoms with a more powerful affinity for them. The number of electrons lost, and so the charge of the ion, is shown after the chemical symbol, e.g. Silver- (Ag) loses one electron to end up being Ag+, whilst zinc (Zn) loses 2 electrons to end up being Zn2+.



What is an anion?

An anion has more electrons than protons, consequently providing it a net an adverse charge. Because that an anion to form, one or much more electrons must be gained, commonly pulled away from various other atoms with a weaker affinity for them. The number of electrons gained, and also so the fee of the ion, is suggested after the chemistry symbol, e.g. Chlorine (Cl) benefit one electron to end up being Cl-, whilst oxygen (O) gains two electrons to end up being O2-.


Cation vs anion chart

The main differences in between cations and also anions space summarized in the table below.






Electrode attractive to

Cathode (negative)

Anode (positive)

Formed by

Metal atoms

Non-metal atoms


Sodium (Na+), stole (Fe2+), Ammonium (NH4+)

Chloride (Cl-), Bromide (Br-), Sulfate (SO42-)

Metallic atoms hold some of their electrons fairly loosely. Consequently, they tend to shed electrons and kind cations. Conversely, most nonmetallic atoms entice electrons an ext strongly than metallic atoms, and so get electrons to type anions. Therefore, once atoms indigenous a metallic and a nonmetallic facet combine, the nonmetallic atoms have tendency to attract one or much more electrons away from the metallic atom to kind ions. This oppositely charged ions then tempt one other to kind ionic bonds and also produce ionic compounds v no as whole net charge. Examples include calcium chloride (CaCl2), potassium iodide (KI) and magnesium oxide (MgO).

Cation vs anion periodic table

It have the right to be possible to predict whether an atom will form a cation or an anion based upon its place on the routine table. Halogens always form anions, alkali metals and also alkaline planet metals always kind cations. Many other metals type cations (e.g. Iron, silver, nickel), whilst many other nonmetals typically form anions (e.g. Oxygen, carbon, sulfur). However, some facets are capable of creating both cations and also anions given the appropriate conditions. One instance is hydrogen, i m sorry may acquire (H-) or lose (H+) one electron, creating hydride link such as ZnH2 (where the is one anion) and hydron compound such as H2O (where the is a cation).

Elements in group 18 the the routine table – the “noble gases”, often tend not to form ions as result of the setup of your electrons which makes them generally unreactive.


Cation vs anion size

Cations and anions come in many sizes throughout the regular table, as seen in this video.

Utilizing ionic properties

Ionic properties can be exploited by chemists because that a variety of purposes. Ion-exchange chromatography for example relies ~ above the affinity that the molecules gift separated for the stationary phase based upon their charge properties to allow separation.

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Ionic properties are main to the role of battery too. Batteries have two electrodes made of conductive material, the cathode i m sorry is the positive finish where the electrical present leaves/electrons enter, and also the anode whereby the electrical existing enters/ electron leave. In in between the electrodes is an electrolyte liquid or gelatin that consists of charged corpuscle – ions. Together this ionic substance reacts v the electrodes the generates electric current. In solitary use, dried cell batteries, zinc is commonly used as the anode whilst manganese dioxide is a popular selection for the electrolyte cathode. The zinc anode likewise acts as the battery’s container in zinc-carbon batteries so together it oxidizes throughout use, the contents can start to leak end time.