Electrolytes vs Nonelectrolytes: Difference and Comparison

Key Takeaways

  1. Electrolytes produce ions and conduct electricity when dissolved.
  2. Nonelectrolytes do not dissociate or conduct electricity in solution.
  3. Electrolytes like salts and acids, nonelectrolytes like sugar.
  4. Electrolyte solutions used in batteries, fuel cells, nerves.

What are Electrolytes?

An electrolyte is a type of substance that gives electricity when broken up in water or any other solvents. Electrolyte has several important roles to play in our bodies. They regulate pH balance, fluid balance, and even muscle function. This is the sole reason you will find athletes consume lots of energy drinks. 

Some common electrolytes are sodium, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and chloride. A healthy body requires a proper balance of electrolytes to function uninterrupted. Sodium and potassium are also responsible for transmitting nerve impulses.

If the body lacks balanced electrolytes, several symptoms may occur, such as kidney disease, excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, irregular heartbeat, and much more. Not only inside our bodies, but electrolytes also get used in chemistry and industrial processes. Electrolyte solutions find their way into batteries and electrochemical processes.

Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are full of electrolytes, so a balanced diet with these food items will maintain the requirement of electrolytes in our bodies. Not only eating the right food but also drinking plenty of water is a requirement for electrolyte balance. In some crucial cases, doctors may prescribe electrolyte supplements to make up for the scarcity.

What are Nonelectrolytes?

Nonelectrolytes are not electrolytes, so they do not produce electricity when dissolved in water. Some common include sugar, ethanol, waxes, urea, benzene, toluene, etc. They do not have much importance on our physiology.

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However, their uses are vast too. Sugar is the most common sweetener for food and beverages, and ethanol is used as a fuel. On the other hand, urea is famous as a fertilizer and also produces plastics and resins.

Nonelectrolytes are composed of neutral molecules, so they do not possess a net electric charge. Even when dissolved in water, it remains in its molecular form. 

Nonelectrolytes have lower boiling and melting points compared to electrolytes. However, the type of the substance is subject to change. In a particular solvent, nonelectrolytes may show electrolyte traits.

Difference Between Electrolytes and Nonelectrolytes

  1. The main difference between the two is that electrolytes can conduct electricity when dissolved in water, but nonelectrolytes can not do it.
  2. Sodium, potassium, and calcium ions are some of the electrolytes, while sugar and alcohol are examples of nonelectrolytes.
  3. Electrolytes are mainly ionic compounds, whereas nonelectrolytes are mainly molecular compounds.
  4. When electrolytes dissolve in water, they break apart into individual ions. But under the same condition, nonelectrolytes keep the nature of a single molecule fixed.
  5. Electrolytes offer several physiological benefits. It can help nerve function and muscle contractions, but nonelectrolytes do not play any beneficial role in our bodies.
  6. The intermolecular forces in electrolytes are strong; therefore, electrolytes have higher boiling and melting points, and nonelectrolytes have weak bonds, so they have lower boiling and melting points.

Comparison Between Electrolytes and Nonelectrolytes

Parameter of ComparisonElectrolytesNonelectrolytes
Producing ionsIt can produce ions when dissolved in water.It is not capable of producing ions when dissolved in water.
Type of compoundThese are mainly ionic compounds.These are mainly molecular compounds.
SubcategoriesElectrolytes can be classified into subcategories based on their ionization. Nonelectrolytes do not have any subcategories based on ionization.
ConductivityConcentration, temperature, and nature of the ions decide the conductivity of electrolytes.The conductivity of nonelectrolytes can not be changed by concentration or temperature.
ExamplesStrong acids, soluble and insoluble salts are a few instances of electrolytes.Sugar and ethanol are a few instances of nonelectrolytes.
References
  1. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jp011053l 
  2. https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlehtml/1981/f1/f19817701191
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Last Updated : 02 September, 2023

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