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Difference between Cations and Anions


After a proposal by English researcher William Whewell, English scientist Michael Faraday coined the name "ion" in the 19th century. Michael Faraday coined this phrase to describe entities that traveled from one electrode to another across an aqueous medium. These two scientists also created the words 'anion' and 'cation.'

A chemical entity that is positively or negatively charged, with the charge being of a certain magnitude, is characterized as an ion. Atoms or molecules having non-zero net charges are referred to as ions.

Types of Ions

An atomic ion, also known as a monoatomic ion, is composed of just one atom of an element (each with its net charge, positive or negative). Conversely, polyatomic ions are also known as the molecular ion is composed of 2 or perhaps more atoms.

Preparation of Ions

Ions can be prepared in several different ways. One such method is by random interactions between the particles in a gaseous or liquid phase. Here, one electron can push off one of the electrons of an atom. An ion containing a net positive charge (cation) is formed as a consequence. A free electron is liberated in the process as well. This type of ionization is known as physical ionization. The liberated free electron may then connect to some other atom forming a new ion containing a negative charge (anion) in the process.

Chemical reactions are another significant way that ions are formed. Whenever an ionic substance, for example, a salt, is dissolved in an appropriate dissolvent (like H2O), the molecules that make up the salt dissociate and become free ions. When NaCl (sodium chloride) is dissolved in a solvent, it dissociates into Na+ and Cl- (Na giving cations and Cl anions).

Understanding Basic Concepts behind Cations and Anions

A proton is a particle charged positively, whereas an electron is a particle charged negatively. As a result, all ions contain more protons than electrons in their fundamental molecule structure or more electrons than protons in their molecular structure.

Ions with more protons than electrons have a net positive electrical charge. Therefore, cations are a term used to describe these ions. The ions that have more electrons than protons, on the other hand, are said to tend to accumulate negative charge. Thus, anions are the common name for these ions.

It is crucial to remember that the attractive electrostatic forces between cations and anions cause ionic bonds to develop. The resultant product is known as an ionic compound. The ionic compound is formed when one positive and one negative ion create ionic bonding with each other.

What exactly are cations?

The ions with a positive charge are referred to as cations. Cations include Na+, Al3+ Ca2+, and so on. When an atomic compound loses one electron, it gets a positive charge because its interior has fewer electrons and more protons. The particle-containing a positive charge is thus referred to as a cation. It comes from the Greek term which implies 'to go down.'

What exactly are anions?

The ions with a negative charge are known as anions. Anions include O2-, S2-, Br-, Cl-, and others. When a molecule obtains electrons to achieve stability, it becomes a negatively charged compound because its interior contains more electrons than protons. This negatively charged particle is therefore referred to as an anion. It comes from the Greek word which meant 'to rise.

Table Summarizing Differences between Cations and Anions

Cations Anions
1. A cation is simply an ion or a species with a positive charge. 1. An anion is simply an ion or a species with a negative charge.
2. The total protons in the nucleus in cations is greater than that of electrons. 2. The total electrons in the nucleus of anions is greater than that of protons.
3. Metals, in particular, produce cations. 3. Non-metals, in particular, create anions.
4. In electrolytic reactions, cations are drawn to the negative terminal on the electrode. 4. In electrolytic reactions, anions are drawn to the positive terminal on the electrode.
5. Generally speaking, cations are smaller than anions in size. 5. Anions are larger as compared to cations.
6. Cations accept electrons and become neutral atoms as a result. 6. Anions shed their electrons and become neutral atoms.
7. Cations include Na+, K+, Ca+2, and so on. 7. Anions include F-, Cl-, Br-, and others.
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