If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Ionic bonds and Coulomb's law

Introduction to how the strength of ionic bonds is related to Coulomb's law. Example of using Coulomb's law to explain differences in melting points of ionic compounds.

Want to join the conversation?

  • primosaur ultimate style avatar for user T-TAS
    These videos are proving quite difficult for me to understand . Why are ionic compounds soluble in water ? Can someone give me a simple answer ?
    (1 vote)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • male robot hal style avatar for user Edward
      When ionic bonds form, one atom becomes positively charged, while the other becomes negatively charged. This is because one has to lose a negatively charged electron and another has to gain one.

      Water is a covalent compound that exhibits the property of polarity, where the electrons hang around one side of the molecule more than the other, giving a water molecule positive and negative poles (negative pole being where the electrons hang around more)

      Ionic compound tend to form complex lattice networks and structures when left in their comfortable states. Take for example, the complex cube crystal lattice structure of salt. But when the salt is put in water, the polarized molecules act like tiny magnets, pulling on the poles of the salt molecules. The water molecules can pull hard enough to eventually break each salt molecule away from the lattice, dissolving the crystal structure.

      Metals and most covalent compound do not have poles, and so the water cannot "pull" on the molecules.
      (34 votes)
  • purple pi purple style avatar for user Rifah Sanjida
    I am really getting confused about a matter, we all know Al as a metal, which has 3 e- in its outermost shell. So, I think it to make an ionic bond. And it does so. But can it make covalent bond with any other metal of periodic table ? If it really does, then plz give me an example....

    Thanks for your kind attention...
    (8 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • mr pink red style avatar for user Ansuman Padhi
      1) Aluminum is an only Amphoteric** metal element that has the ability to form both ionic and covalent bond.
      2) One example of covalent bond is AlCl_3.
      3) Al3+ is highly charged species in nature and it can polarize the electron clouds of Cl to a large extent. So, electrons get shared between the two ions. Hence the compound is a covalent one, but the bond is polar covalent
      This answer does not say anything about the Amphoteric definition, so readers DO NOT confuse
      (10 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Brian O'Nuanain
    How is the radius of the nucleus measured? Must be a really small calipers:)
    (4 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • hopper jumping style avatar for user Yuya Fujikawa
    Why is the r between Na and F shorter than Na and Cl?
    What is the r trend on the periodic table?
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • piceratops seed style avatar for user RogerP
      Atomic radii get smaller as you go from left to right within a period in the periodic table, and they get bigger as you go down a group.
      F is a smaller atom than Cl, and it is also more electronegative, hence the atomic radius of F is smaller than that of Cl.
      (9 votes)
  • starky sapling style avatar for user pratishthasharma1505
    How did you calculate the melting point of NaCl at in the video?
    (4 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • hopper jumping style avatar for user Arnab Kumar Debnath
    But how can I calculate the melting point using the Coulombs law?
    (0 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user DepressedGuy
    What is solubility?
    (1 vote)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • female robot amelia style avatar for user Momin Mustafa
      Solubility is a chemical property referring to the ability for a given substance, the solute, to dissolve in a solvent.

      It is measured in terms of the maximum amount of solute dissolved in a solvent at equilibrium.

      The resulting solution is called a saturated solution.

      Certain substances are soluble in all proportions with a given solvent, such as ethanol in water.

      This property is known as miscibility.

      Under various conditions, the equilibrium solubility can be exceeded to give a so-called supersaturated solution, which is metastable.

      The solvent is often a solid, which can be a pure substance or a mixture.

      The species that dissolves, the solute, can be a gas, another liquid, or a solid.

      Solubilities range widely, from infinitely soluble such as ethanol in water, to poorly soluble, such as silver chloride in water.

      The term insoluble is often applied to poorly soluble compounds, though strictly speaking there are very few cases where there is absolutely no material dissolved.

      The process of dissolving, called dissolution, is relatively straightforward for covalent substances such as ethanol.

      When ethanol dissolves in water, the ethanol molecules remain intact but form new hydrogen bonds with the water.

      When, however, an ionic compound such as sodium chloride (NaCl) dissolves in water, the sodium chloride lattice dissociates into separate ions which are solvated (wrapped) with a coating of water molecules.

      Nonetheless, NaCl is said to dissolve in water, because evaporation of the solvent returns crystalline NaCl.
      (5 votes)
  • piceratops tree style avatar for user Poshak Pathak
    Is the melting point at calculated or it is just an approximate value?
    (1 vote)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • spunky sam red style avatar for user Nathan
    In the video, it only says q1 and q2, but is it possible for a q3 if another atom was involved in the bond?
    (1 vote)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user ishan.phansalkar
      All the forces emerge from interactions and we only look at 2 particle interactions at one time. So it there is a q3 , you will have to calculate the force between (q1,q2) ; (q2,q3) ; (q1,q3) separately. Also, this is true not only for coulomb forces but for any force , you only consider 2 particles(i.e. systems) at a time.
      (2 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user hamidtarpley
    How did you calculate the melting point of NaCl at in the video?
    (1 vote)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user

Video transcript

- [Voiceover] Ionic bonds are the bonds that hold together ionic compounds. So basically it's what holds together cations and anions. An example of a compound that's held together with ionic bonds is sodium chloride, also known as table salt. So here we have a close-up picture of some really nice crystals of sodium chloride. And this is something that you could try at home. You can take any table salt that you might have, dissolve it up in some water, and then let that water slowly evaporate. And if you're lucky, you might get some beautiful symmetric crystals like these. For me personally at least, growing crystals that look beautiful is one of the most fun things about chemistry. You can see when we look at the close-up shapes of these crystals that they have some very beautiful symmetry. That symmetry tells us a little bit about the structure of these compounds on a molecular level. If we zoom in on these crystals, we can imagine, actually we don't have to imagine, you can look at these with different kinds of instruments like x-ray crystallography, and you can look at the crystal lattice and get information about how the different ions are arranged in the solids. So the way that the ions are arranged determines a lot of things about the properties of these compounds. So these ionic bonds and how the ions are arranged tell us a lot about the solubility of the compound. Solubility. And other properties like melting or boiling points. And it even can be related back to things like how hard a particular ionic solid is. So the ionic bonds here, in the sodium chloride, are the ones that hold together our sodium ions and our chloride ions. So our sodium plus and our chloride minus. And the strength of an ionic bond is related to the electrostatic force. The electrostatic force between them. And I'm going to abbreviate the electrostatic force as F subscript e. So this is the force between two charged species. And it's equal to some constant k... Times the two charges that are interacting divided by the distance between the two charges squared. So here, q1 and q2 are the charges, and in the case of sodium chloride for example, q1 and q2 would be... q1 might be one plus, from our sodium ion, and q2 might be one minus, from our chloride ion. And we could also just switch those two, we could say chloride is q1 and sodium is q2, and that wouldn't change what we get from this equation. And then r2 here, is the distance between the ions, and we usually approximate it as saying it's the sum of the ionic radii... for the two ions we're looking at. So we can use Coulomb's law here to explain some properties that are related to the strengths of ionic bonds. And so the example we're gonna go through today is going to be that of melting point. So we're gonna look at some melting point trends and try to relate them to the different variables in Coulomb's law. So the first thing we'll look at, the first two compounds we'll compare are sodium fluoride... and magnesium oxide. Sodium fluoride has a melting point of 993 degrees Celsius, and magnesium oxide has a melting point of 2852 degrees Celsius. The other information we know about these two compounds, if you look up the ionic radii, it turns out that sodium fluoride, the distance between the ions is about the same as magnesium oxide. They're not exactly the same, but they're pretty close, so if we were to say that r is approximately the same for these two, then we can explain the difference in melting points using the charges. Since melting point is a measure of, basically how much energy do you need to add to these compounds to break apart your ions, we would expect melting point to go up, to increase, as Fe increases. As the force between the ions increases, we would expect to have to add more energy to break those ions apart. And we can see that in our first example. Magnesium oxide, if we look at the charges on the ions, magnesium is two plus, and oxide is two minus. In sodium fluoride, sodium is one plus, and fluoride is one minus. So we would expect, assuming that r is about the same, this q1 times q2 is four times bigger in magnesium oxide versus sodium fluoride. So q1 and q2, the product of q1 and q2... is higher for magnesium oxide, and that's why we would expect the melting point to be higher. We can also look at sodium chloride versus sodium fluoride. And in this case, let's look at, well, I don't know, maybe this is kind of artificial, the boiling point, the melting point, sorry, the melting point of sodium chloride is 801 degrees Celsius... and the melting point of sodium fluoride is, like we said early, 993 degrees Celsius. And so this time, the charges are the same on our ions, our q1 and q2 is one plus for the sodium in both compounds, and one minus for the chloride and the fluoride. So q1 times q2 didn't change for these two compounds, but since we changed the anion from fluoride to chloride, we increased r here, and increasing r in the denominator makes the electrostatic force goes down. Another way we could put it is that since r decreases, as we go from sodium chloride to sodium fluoride, the melting point goes up. So in each of these pairs, the compound that has the higher melting point is the one that also... has the higher electrostatic forces, and that's either because the charges are higher, q1 and q2 are higher, or because the distance between the ions went down. So these are some examples for how we can relate the properties of ionic compounds to the electrostatic force using Coulomb's law between the cation and the anion.