Ionic Compounds: Why Do They Conduct Electricity?

Ionic Compounds: Why Do They Conduct Electricity?

According to, ionic substances conduct electricity when dissolved in water because the movement of their negatively and positively charged particles creates an electrical current. The charged ions split and travel freely in this liquid state, forming a stream of electrical particles that conducts electricity.

Electrical conductivity refers to a substance’s ability to generate an electrical current, whereas electricity refers to the movement of charged particles that generate that current. A current is basically a flow of charges that demands free movement in the electrical environment. Both mobility and conductivity are required for the formation of an electrical current.

When positively and negatively charged ions are linked tightly together, ionic compounds develop. These ions are atoms that have gained or lost an electron, and they bond by exchanging electrons in a process known as ionic bonding. A cation is a positively charged ion, while an anion is a negatively charged ion. Sodium Chloride, NaCl, is an ionic compound in which Sodium (NA) is the cation and Chlorine (Cl) is the anion.

In their solid state, ionic compounds have particles that are densely packed together, inhibiting movement and preventing the formation of electrical current. Ionic solids, as a result, do not conduct electricity. The ionic link is destroyed when dissolved in water, allowing the charged ions to split and flow freely. The water facilitates particle mobility, while the separated ions give conductivity. An electrical current is formed to conduct electricity since both are present.

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Misha Khatri
Misha Khatri is an emeritus professor in the University of Notre Dame's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics and a PhD in Physical Analytical Chemistry from the University of Utah.


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