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Chemistry LibreTexts

3.6: Chapter Summary

To ensure that you understand the material in this chapter, you should review the meanings of the following bold terms and ask yourself how they relate to the topics in the chapter.

Atoms combine into compounds by forming chemical bonds. A survey of stable atoms and molecules leads to the octet rule, which says that stable atoms tend to have eight electrons in their outermost, or valence, shell. One way atoms obtain eight electrons in the valence shell is for some atoms to lose electrons while other atoms gain them. When this happens, the atoms take on an electrical charge. Charged atoms are called ions. Ions having opposite charges attract each other. This attraction is called ionic bonding, and the compounds formed are called ionic compounds.

Positively charged ions are called cations, while negatively charged ions are called anions. The formation of both cations and anions can be illustrated using electron configurations. Because elements in a column of the periodic table have the same valence shell electron configuration, atoms in the same column of the periodic table tend to form ions having the same charge. Electron dot diagrams, or Lewis diagrams, can also be used to illustrate the formation of cations and anions.

Ionic compounds are represented in writing by a chemical formula, which gives the lowest ratio of cations and anions present in the compound. In a formula, the symbol of the cation is written first, followed by the symbol of the anion. Formula unit is considered the basic unit of an ionic compound because ionic compounds do not exist as discrete units. Instead, they exist as crystals, three-dimensional arrays of ions, with cations surrounded by anions and anions surrounded by cations. Chemical formulas for ionic compounds are determined by balancing the positive charge from the cation(s) with the negative charge from the anion(s). A subscript to the right of the ion indicates that more than one of that ion is present in the chemical formula.

Some ions are groups of atoms bonded together and having an overall electrical charge. These are called polyatomic ions. Writing formulas with polyatomic ions follows the same rules as with monatomic ions, except that when more than one polyatomic ion is present in a chemical formula, the polyatomic ion is enclosed in parentheses and the subscript is outside the right parenthesis. Ionic compounds typically form between metals and nonmetals or between polyatomic ions.

Names of ionic compounds are derived from the names of the ions, with the name of the cation coming first, followed by the name of the anion. If an element can form cations of different charges, there are two alternate systems for indicating the compound’s name. In the Stock system, a roman numeral in parentheses indicates the charge on the cation. An example is the name for FeCl2, which is iron(II) chloride. In the common system, the suffixes -ous and -ic are used to stand for the lower and higher possible charge of the cation, respectively. These suffixes are attached to a stem representing the element (which frequently comes from the Latin form of the element name). An example is the common name for FeCl2, which is ferrous chloride.

The formula mass of an ionic compound is the sum of the masses of each individual atom in the formula. Care must be taken when calculating formula masses for formulas containing multiple polyatomic ions because the subscript outside the parentheses refers to all the atoms in the polyatomic ion.