How does an atom become a positive ion?


Quick Answer

An atom becomes a positive ion when it loses an electron, which is a negatively charged subatomic particle. Only metal atoms can become positive ions.

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Full Answer

An atom's net charge is the sum of its positively charged particles (protons) and its negatively charged particles (electrons). If protons and electrons are present in equal numbers, then the atom has no charge and is considered neutral.

A positive ion is an atom that has lost an electron, giving it more protons than electrons. A negative ion is an atom that has gained an electron, giving it more electrons than protons.

Metal atoms are the only atoms that form positive ions due to their ability to lose an electron. Non-metal atoms form negative ions because they readily accept an additional electron. Compounds made up of positive and negative ions are called ionic compounds, and they have incredibly strong bonds due to the oppositely charged ions attracting each other. Ionic compounds have high melting and boiling points due to the strength of their bonds.

Positive ions are known as cations, and negative ions are known as anions. These terms were coined by chemist Michael Faraday, who observed that some substances traveled toward the cathode and some toward the anode in his experimental devices. He had no knowledge of ions; it has since been recognized that he was observing the movement of ions, and his nomenclature is still used.

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