An ion is an atom or a molecule that has a
total number of electrons that is not equal to the
total number or protons which gives the atom
or molecule a net positive (electrons < protons,
aka cations) or negative (electrons > protons, aka
anions) electrical charge. Anions and cations
can come together to form ionic bonds and
neutralize the electrical charge, like in a
molecule of salt (NaCl). When dissolved in
water, the molecules of salt separate into their
ions, Na+ and Cl-.
A radical is an atom or molecule that has an
unpaired valence electron, but this atom or
molecules does not typically carry a charge
because the number of orbiting electrons still
matches the number of protons in the nucleus,
unless the atom or molecule also happens to be an
ion. Radicals are very reactive and will form
covalent bonds, which share electrons between
atoms to complete an electron pair.
Ions have a charge, whereas radicals are
neutral. Also, ions in nature tend to be
compensated by ions with opposite charges, whereas
radicals are very reactive and thus short lived.
An ion carries a charge, that means that
the number of electrons and protons do not match.
Electrons have a negative charge and protons have
a positive charge. A radical has an unpaired
electron, but does not have a net charge
because the number of protons equals the number of
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