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A change in the number of electrons of an atom does not change the type of atom that it is. However, the charge of the atom will change. If electrons are added, then the atom will become more negative . If electrons are taken away, then the atom will become more positive . The atom that is formed in either of these cases is called an ion . Put simply, an ion is a charged atom.


An ion is a charged atom. A positively charged ion is called a cation e.g. Na + , and a negatively charged ion is called an anion e.g. F - . The charge on an ion depends on the number of electrons that have been lost or gained.

But how do we know how many electrons an atom will gain or lose? Remember what we said about stability? We said that all atoms are trying to get a full outer shell. For the elements on the left hand side of the periodic table the easiest way to do this is to lose electrons and for the elements on the right of the periodic table the easiest way to do this is to gain electrons. So the elements on the left of the periodic table will form cations and the elements on the right hand side of the periodic table will form anions. By doing this the elements can be in the most stable electronic configuration and so be as stable as the noble gases.

Look at the following examples. Notice the number of valence electrons in the neutral atom, the number of electrons that are lost or gained and the final charge of the ion that is formed.


A lithium atom loses one electron to form a positive ion:
The arrangement of electrons in a lithium ion.
In this example, the lithium atom loses an electron to form the cation Li + .


A fluorine atom gains one electron to form a negative ion:
The arrangement of electrons in a fluorine ion.

You should have noticed in both these examples that each element lost or gained electrons to make a full outer shell.

Investigation : the formation of ions

  1. Use the diagram for lithium as a guide and draw similar diagrams to show how each of the following ions is formed:
    1. Mg 2 +
    2. Na +
    3. Cl -
    4. O 2 +
  2. Do you notice anything interesting about the charge on each of these ions? Hint: Look at the number of valence electrons in the neutral atom and the charge on the final ion.


Once you have completed the activity, you should notice that:
  • In each case the number of electrons that is either gained or lost, is the same as the number of electrons that are needed for the atoms to achieve a full outer energy level.
  • If you look at an energy level diagram for sodium ( Na ), you will see that in a neutral atom, there is only one valence electron. In order to achieve a full outer energy level, and therefore a more stable state for the atom, this electron will be lost .
  • In the case of oxygen ( O ), there are six valence electrons. To achieve a full energy level, it makes more sense for this atom to gain two electrons. A negative ion is formed.

Exercise: the formation of ions

Match the information in column A with the information in column B by writing only the letter (A to I) next to the question number (1 to 7)

1. A positive ion that has 3 less electrons than its neutral atom A. Mg 2 +
2. An ion that has 1 more electron than its neutral atom B. Cl -
3. The anion that is formed when bromine gains an electron C. CO 3 2 -
4. The cation that is formed from a magnesium atom D. Al 3 +
5. An example of a compound ion E. Br 2 -
6. A positive ion with the electron configuration of argon F. K +
7. A negative ion with the electron configuration of neon G. Mg +
H. O 2 -
I. Br -

Questions & Answers

can someone help me with some logarithmic and exponential equations.
Jeffrey Reply
sure. what is your question?
okay, so you have 6 raised to the power of 2. what is that part of your answer
I don't understand what the A with approx sign and the boxed x mean
it think it's written 20/(X-6)^2 so it's 20 divided by X-6 squared
I'm not sure why it wrote it the other way
I got X =-6
ok. so take the square root of both sides, now you have plus or minus the square root of 20= x-6
oops. ignore that.
so you not have an equal sign anywhere in the original equation?
Commplementary angles
Idrissa Reply
im all ears I need to learn
right! what he said ⤴⤴⤴
what is a good calculator for all algebra; would a Casio fx 260 work with all algebra equations? please name the cheapest, thanks.
Kevin Reply
a perfect square v²+2v+_
Dearan Reply
kkk nice
Abdirahman Reply
algebra 2 Inequalities:If equation 2 = 0 it is an open set?
Kim Reply
or infinite solutions?
The answer is neither. The function, 2 = 0 cannot exist. Hence, the function is undefined.
Embra Reply
if |A| not equal to 0 and order of A is n prove that adj (adj A = |A|
Nancy Reply
rolling four fair dice and getting an even number an all four dice
ramon Reply
Kristine 2*2*2=8
Bridget Reply
Differences Between Laspeyres and Paasche Indices
Emedobi Reply
No. 7x -4y is simplified from 4x + (3y + 3x) -7y
Mary Reply
is it 3×y ?
Joan Reply
J, combine like terms 7x-4y
Bridget Reply
im not good at math so would this help me
Rachael Reply
I'm not good at math so would you help me
what is the problem that i will help you to self with?
how do you translate this in Algebraic Expressions
linda Reply
Need to simplify the expresin. 3/7 (x+y)-1/7 (x-1)=
Crystal Reply
. After 3 months on a diet, Lisa had lost 12% of her original weight. She lost 21 pounds. What was Lisa's original weight?
Chris Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
what is the k.e before it land
what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
what is nano technology
Sravani Reply
what is system testing?
preparation of nanomaterial
Victor Reply
Yes, Nanotechnology has a very fast field of applications and their is always something new to do with it...
Himanshu Reply
good afternoon madam
what is system testing
what is the application of nanotechnology?
In this morden time nanotechnology used in many field . 1-Electronics-manufacturad IC ,RAM,MRAM,solar panel etc 2-Helth and Medical-Nanomedicine,Drug Dilivery for cancer treatment etc 3- Atomobile -MEMS, Coating on car etc. and may other field for details you can check at Google
anybody can imagine what will be happen after 100 years from now in nano tech world
after 100 year this will be not nanotechnology maybe this technology name will be change . maybe aftet 100 year . we work on electron lable practically about its properties and behaviour by the different instruments
name doesn't matter , whatever it will be change... I'm taking about effect on circumstances of the microscopic world
how hard could it be to apply nanotechnology against viral infections such HIV or Ebola?
silver nanoparticles could handle the job?
not now but maybe in future only AgNP maybe any other nanomaterials
can nanotechnology change the direction of the face of the world
Prasenjit Reply
At high concentrations (>0.01 M), the relation between absorptivity coefficient and absorbance is no longer linear. This is due to the electrostatic interactions between the quantum dots in close proximity. If the concentration of the solution is high, another effect that is seen is the scattering of light from the large number of quantum dots. This assumption only works at low concentrations of the analyte. Presence of stray light.
Ali Reply
the Beer law works very well for dilute solutions but fails for very high concentrations. why?
bamidele Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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What makes metals better to use as wires than non-metals? (please link to bonding type)??? HELP
Yash Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Chemistry grade 10 [caps]. OpenStax CNX. Jun 13, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11303/1.4
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