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Ionic Bonds: Definitions and Examples

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  • 0:08 Chemical Bonds
  • 0:54 What Are Ions?
  • 2:35 Neutral Atoms and Anions
  • 4:41 Cations
  • 5:12 Ionic Bonds
  • 6:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Laura Nappi
Did you know that when atoms stick together to form molecules, they gain and lose electrons, making them negatively or positively charged? In this lesson, you will learn how cations and anions form one type of chemical bond called an ionic bond.

Chemical Bonds

You may be wondering, 'How do atoms in molecules stick together?' Atoms in molecules are held together by chemical bonds. A chemical bond between atoms is similar to the attraction felt between two magnets. Eventually, if two magnets get close enough, the attraction becomes so strong they will eventually stick together.

Like magnets, atoms feel an attraction for each other, and this attraction holds the atoms together in the form of a bond. A chemical bond occurs when two or more atoms in a molecule share or transfer electrons. Remember, an electron is a subatomic particle with a negative charge.

What Are Ions?

Did you know the electrons involved in some types of chemical bonds are like money in your bank account? When you purchase things, you are spending money, causing your bank account to lose money. On the other hand, when you are bringing home a paycheck, you gain money into your bank account.

The electrons involved in some chemical bonds are just like the money in your bank account. Some atoms tend to spend their electrons, causing a loss of electrons from their bank. An atom that loses electrons carries a positive charge. These atoms are shopaholics and easily spend their electrons. In the case of atoms, a bank account represents the electron cloud where electrons hang out. Remember that electrons are found in a large electron cloud outside of the nucleus. Unlike the shopaholic atoms, some atoms tend to bring home a paycheck, gaining electrons in their bank account.

These atoms do not lose electrons and tend to only gain them. An atom that gains electrons carries a negative charge. Atoms that gain or lose electrons are called ions. An ion is an atom that carries a charge because it lost or gained one or more electrons. An ion carries a charge because the atom has an uneven amount of electrons and protons. Remember, all atoms have protons and electrons. Protons have a positive charge, and electrons have a negative charge. An atom can only gain or lose electrons, the number of protons will always stay the same.

Neutral Atoms and Anions

An atom is considered neutral if it has no charge. A neutral atom has the same amount of protons and electrons. Since there are the same number of protons and electrons, they cancel each other out, giving it no charge. You can picture a neutral atom holding on to a scale. If the scale has the same amount of protons and electrons, it is considered balanced with no overall charge. For example, a neutral beryllium atom has 4 protons and 4 electrons. Since it has the same number of protons and electrons, there is no overall charge.

Neutral atoms have the same number of protons and electrons and therefore, no charge.
Neutral Atoms

Many atoms do not like to be neutral and love to gain electrons. These atoms are like greedy robbers and love to steal electrons from another atom. An example of an atom that loves to rob other atoms of their electrons is fluorine. Fluorine has the tendency to gain one or more electrons from another atom, causing it to have more electrons than protons. When an atom gains electrons, the scale becomes off balance.

An atom that has more electrons than protons is called an anion. An anion is an ion with an overall negative charge because it gained one or more electrons. Anions are usually nonmetals found on the right side of the periodic table. To help you remember that an anion carries a negative charge, look at the first and second letter of anion, A and N. This stands for 'A Negative Ion.'

Unlike the greedy robber atoms, some atoms are very generous and love to give away their electrons to another atom. For example, lithium has a tendency to lose one electron to another atom. Picture a lithium atom holding onto a scale that loses one electron. The scale becomes off balance because there are fewer electrons than protons.

Cations

An atom with fewer electrons than protons is called a cation. A cation is an ion with an overall positive charge because it lost one or more electrons. Cations are usually metals, which are found on the left side of the periodic table. To help you remember that a cation carries a positive charge, look at the cat in cation, and remember, cats are always positive.

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