Difference Between Molecule and Ion

The world is a beautiful place. The mountains, the sea, the sky, and all of the things that physically exist comprise atoms.


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They are the universe’s building blocks. However, atoms are not stable. Hence, they stabilize themselves by making molecules and ions.

Key Takeaways

  1. A molecule is a group of two or more atoms chemically bonded together, while an ion is an atom or molecule with an electrical charge.
  2. Molecules are neutral, while ions can be positively or negatively charged.
  3. Molecules are formed through covalent bonding, while ions are formed through the transfer of electrons between atoms.

Molecule vs Ion

Molecules and ions differ because a molecule does not have a net charge, while an ion does. This happens because everything in this universe wants to achieve equilibrium.

Atoms do this by forming molecules and ions. Also, molecules are developed by sharing electrons, whereas ions are formed due to the exchange of electrons.

Molecule vs Ion 1

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One or more atoms form covalent bonds to become a molecule. The smallest unit of which a substance is made is a molecule. A molecule retains all the chemical properties of the essence. Atoms depict molecules, represented using circles, forming bonds together.

A chemical species with a net positive or negative charge is known as an ion. An atom and a molecule can be termed an ion if they have non-zero net accounts. Hence, all ions either have more electrons than protons or more protons than electrons in their molecular or atomic structure.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonMoleculeIon
Electron distributionMolecules are formed due to sharing of electrons between two or more atoms or by two oppositely charged ions.Ions are formed when atoms gain or lose charge to achieve a noble gas configuration.
SizeMolecule size depends on the size of the atoms or ions involved in the bond formation.Anions are more significant than parent molecules, and cations are more minor than parent molecules.
StabilityMolecules are more stable than ions.Ions are less stable than molecules.
FormationCovalent bonds or ionic bonds form molecules.Ions are formed by ionic bonding between two ions of opposite charge and are more potent than covalent.
Electricity conductionSince molecules have zero net charges, they are not good conductors of electricity.Ions are good conductors of electricity.

What is a Molecule?

The smallest unit of a compound, which shows the compound’s chemical properties, is known as a molecule. Molecules consist of two or more atoms covalently bonded together, i.e., they share one or more electrons.

Molecules comprise most of the earth, and almost all organic substances are made of molecules. 

Molecules can be homonuclear and heteronuclear, meaning they comprise the same or different elements, respectively.

A covalent bond is formed when two atoms with incomplete octets share bits. A covalent bond transforms the different atoms into a molecule.

Molecules consist of atoms grouped together either through covalent bonds or ionic bonds. 

The covalently bonded molecules are weaker than the ionic bonded molecules. This happens because ionic bonds have a powerful electrostatic force holding the ions together.

Due to this, ionic molecules are more stable than covalently bonded molecules.


What is an Ion?

An ion is a chemical species with a net positive or negative charge of some magnitude. Ions refer to molecules and atoms that have a non-zero net control.

Hence, ions have either more protons than electrons or more electrons than protons in their molecular or atomic structure. 

Ions that have a more significant number of electrons than protons and hold a net negative charge are known as anions.

Conversely, ions with a more significant number of protons than electrons and holding a net positive charge are known as cations. 

Ionic bonds are formed only when electrostatic forces arise between a negatively charged anion and a positively charged cation.

These electrostatic forces attract the anions and cations to each other to stabilize the net charge. These electrostatic forces help in the formation of ionic compounds.

Ions made of only one element are called atomic or monatomic ions. The participating atoms hold some net charge, either positive or negative.

Whereas if two or more elements are involved in an ion, they are referred to as molecular or polyatomic ions.

ionic compounds 1

Main Differences Between Molecules and Ions

  1. Molecules do not have a net charge, whereas ions have a net positive or negative control.
  2. Molecules are formed when two or more atoms share electrons to complete their octet, while ions exchange electrons and form ionic compounds due to electrostatic forces.
  3. Since ions are held together by electrostatic forces, they are much more stable than molecules formed by covalent bonds. 
  4. Due to high attractive forces between two ions, they have more lattice energy than the covalently bonded molecules.
  5. Because of higher lattice energy, ions are more stable than covalently bonded.
  6. The size of molecules depends on the atoms involved in the bond formations. Cations are smaller than their parent molecules, whereas anions are more significant than their parent molecules.
Difference Between Molecule and Ion
  1. https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1988STIA…8915174M/abstract
  2. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/ja00260a006

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