Cracking the AP Chemistry Exam

Part IV

Content Review for the AP Chemistry Exam

Chapter 4

Big Idea #2: Bonding and Phases

Chemical and physical properties of materials can be explained by the structure and the arrangement of atoms, ions, or molecules and the forces between them.


An ionic solid is held together by the electrostatic attractions between ions that are next to one another in a lattice structure. They often occur between metals and nonmetals. In an ionic bond, electrons are not shared. Instead, one atom gives up electrons and becomes a positively charged ion while the other atom accepts electrons and becomes a negatively charged ion.

The two ions in an ionic bond are held together by electrostatic forces. In the following diagram, a sodium atom has given up its single valence electron to a chlorine atom, which has seven valence electrons and uses the electron to complete its outer shell (with eight). The two atoms are then held together by the positive and negative charges on the ions.

The electrostatic attractions that hold together the ions in the NaCl lattice are very strong and any substance held together by ionc bonds will usually be a solid at room temperature and have very high melting and boiling points.

Two factors affect the melting points of ionic substances. The primary factor is the charge on the ions. According to Coulomb’s law, a greater charge leads to a greater bond energy (often called lattice energy in ionic bonds), so a compound composed of ions with charges of +2 and −2 (such as MgO) will have a higher melting point than a compound composed of ions with charges of +1 and −1 (such as NaCl). If both compounds are made up of ions with equal charges, then the size of the ions must be considered. Smaller ions will have greater Coulombic attraction (remember, size is inversely proportional to bond energy), so a substance like LiF would have a greater melting point than KBr.

In an ionic solid, each electron is localized around a particular atom, so electrons do not move around the lattice; this makes ionic solids poor conductors of electricity. Ionic liquids, however, do conduct electricity because the ions themselves are free to move about in the liquid phase, although the electrons are still localized around particular atoms. Salts are held together by ionic bonds.