What are polyatomic ions?

Answer

Polyatomic ions are groups of covalently bound atoms that have a nonneutral charge as a group. The molecule shares its electrons, so no one atom can be said to be an ion by itself, but the molecule as a whole has a different number of electrons than its number of protons. Polyatomic ions are very common, especially when dissolved in water.

The covalent bonds within most polyatomic ions are relatively strong, such that the ions can retain their basic form through many chemical reactions. Many acids are the result of hydrogen ions bound to polyatomic ions. Sulfuric acid, for instance, is a hydrogen ion bound to a polyatomic hydrogen sulfate ion. Hydroxide, a very common polyatomic ion composed of one hydrogen and one oxygen, is the proton acceptor of many bases. It becomes water after neutralizing an acid.

Many polyatomic ions are either produced by, or are essential to, the various functions of organisms. Nitrate, for instance, a negatively charged compound of one nitrogen and three oxygen atoms, is essential to the growth of plants. Carbonate, a negative ion composed of one carbon with three oxygen atoms, is an essential part of many organisms' skeletons when bonded to calcium. Calcium carbonate from such skeletons is the major constituent of limestone.

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Polyatomic ions are electrically charged collections of two or more atoms. Most common inorganic polyatomic ions have negative charges.
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The polyatomic ion for Ammonium is NH. 4.
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