Why Do Ionic Compounds Make Electricity Flow Through Them?

About.com says that when ionic compounds are dissolved in water, the movement of their negatively and positively charged particles creates an electrical current. In this liquid state, the charged ions separate and move around freely, making a current of electrical particles that can carry electricity.

Electrical conductivity is a way to measure a substance’s ability to produce an electric current. Electricity, on the other hand, is the movement of charged particles that make up that current. In the world of electricity, a current is just a flow of charges that needs to move freely. In order for an electric current to form, there must be both movement and conductivity.

Ions with positive charges and ions with negative charges stick together to make ionic compounds. Ions are atoms that have gained or lost an electron. They stick together through a process called “ionic bonding,” in which they share an electron.

A cation is an ion that has a positive charge, and an anion is an ion that has a negative charge. Sodium chloride, or NaCl, is an example of an ionic compound. In NaCl, sodium is the cation and chlorine is the anion.

When ionic compounds are solid, the particles are held together tightly, so they can’t move and no electricity can flow through them. So, ionic solids don’t make electricity flow through them. When something is dissolved in water, the ionic bond breaks.

This lets the charged ions separate and move around freely. The water makes the particles move, and the separated ions make the circuit work. Since both are present, an electrical current is created to conduct electricity.

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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