Cations vs. Anions: How They Affect the Properties of Compounds

Cations vs. Anions: How They Affect the Properties of Compounds


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  • Source: Microbioz India

  • Date: 01 Jan,2024

Two ions that are essential to the synthesis and characteristics of chemical compounds are cations and anions. Comprehending their attributes is essential to comprehending the actions of diverse chemicals. Let’s examine what sets cations apart from anions and how their differences impact a compound’s characteristics.


  1. Definition: A cation occurs when an atom loses its electrons, leading to a positive charge.
  2. Formation: Generally, metals become cations when they lose electrons from their outermost shell.
  3. Size: Cations have fewer electrons than parent neutral atoms hence tend to be smaller with a greater attraction between the remaining electrons and the nucleus.
  4. Ionic Radius: Cations have smaller ionic radius than those of parent neutral atoms.
  5. Examples: Na⁺, K⁺ and Ca²⁺ are examples of cations.
  6. Behavior in Compounds: Cations form ionic compounds by bonding with anions through the ionic bonds which usually have high melting points and can dissolve in water.
  7. Conductivity: When certain examples of these compounds that are formed by ions containing either cations or anions, they become good conductors due to their ability for their ions to move when melted or dissolved in water


  1. Definition: Anion is a negatively charged ion that occurs as a result of addition of electron/s to an atom.
  2. Formation: Non-metals gain electrons to form anions mainly.
  3. Size: Extra electrons result in larger size for anions as there is increased electron-electron repulsion expanding the electron cloud
  4. Ionic Radius: Compared to those from original neutral atoms, anions have larger ionic radiuses
  5. Examples: Cl-, O²-, N³- are examples of anions
  6. Behavior in Compounds: Anions are attracted to cations through ionic bonds, forming ionic compounds. These compounds often have high melting and boiling points and are soluble in water.
  7. Conductivity: Ionic compounds formed by cations and anions conduct electricity when dissolved in water or melted

Overall Impact on Properties of Compounds:

  1. Ionic Bonds: Cations and anions interact through electrostatic forces to form ionic bonds in compounds. Such bonds make ionic bonds stable with high melting points.
  2. Solubility: Some of these molecules can dissolve in water because they have strong interactions of electrostatic type with water molecules.
  3. Electrical Conductivity: Ions move freely within the liquid state or solution in molten/soluble ionic compounds thus serve as conductors of electric current.

Finally, one can say that cations and anions play a major role in the formation of ionic compounds, which leads to their various characteristics both physical and chemical ones. It is the electrostatic attraction between oppositely charged ions that provides each compound with unique characteristics it has.

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