If you're proficient in using formulae to represent chemical compounds, but are not so confident in translating them into scientific names, our chemical name calculator may be just right for you. Here you will find the names and formulas of ionic compounds without having to memorize the terminology (or, at least, all of it).

If you've ever wondered what's inside fireworks - read on, and you will know the answer by the end of this article! You will also learn what the difference between an atom and an ion is, the chemical name definition, how to tell if a compound is ionic, and the properties of ionic compounds.

What is the difference between an atom and an ion?

Atoms are the smallest units of elements and have an equal number of protons and electrons, so their charge is neutral. If the charge of an atom or a collection of particles is positive or negative, we have an ion.

In other words, atoms become ions by losing or gaining electrons. You might have heard the terms cation and anion. Well, they're simply two different types of ions. What is the difference between a cation and an anion, then? Cations have more protons than electrons, meaning that their charge is positive. Funnily enough, the type of electrode they're attracted to is called a cathode despite being negatively charged. Anions are the opposite as they have a negative charge and are attracted to anodes.

How to tell if a compound is ionic?

The compound is ionic if it's made from metal and non-metal elements. If it's two non-metals, the bond is said to be covalent.

Hold on, how are you meant to know what is a binary ionic compound, if we haven't told you what is a compound itself? In chemistry, this term describes a substance composed of identical molecules consisting of atoms of two or more elements. There are various types of compounds, such as:

  • Binary ionic compounds - As the name suggests, these are formed from two different elements, a metal and a non-metal. There may also be more than one of each element in the compound. It's not to be confused with a diatomic compound, which has multiple atoms of the same element.

  • Ionic compounds - They are also obtained by combining metals, but this time instead of non-metals, we have polyatomic ions such as cyanide, CN⁻.

  • Acids - They are the compounds in which the cation is H+. Although they can be termed the same way as the ionic compounds, they're usually given special names. For instance, HCl, a common chemical compound, can be called both hydrogen chloride and hydrochloric acid.

    • Acid salts are ionic compounds containing acidic hydrogen, but not necessarily as the only counterion. An example would be sodium bicarbonate, NaHCO3.
  • Covalent compounds - In this group, as we've mentioned, we have only non-metals as only they are capable of forming covalent bonds. As they tend to exist as individual molecules, and not huge ionic lattices of repeating units, it's necessary to state the amount of each element when naming them.

  • Hydrocarbons - A type of covalent compound, these are the simplest kind of organic compounds as they're composed of only hydrogen and carbon. If you've ever heard of alkenes, they fall under this category.

The chemical name calculator can assist you in naming ionic compounds.

Names and formulas for ionic compounds: chemical name calculator

The chemical name definition is obvious, but knowing how to name chemical compounds in practice can be tricky, especially if we combine polyatomic ions. There are three main rules to remember:

  • Cation goes first, and you use the name of the element without any changes. Ca remains calcium, NH₄ is still ammonium. Nice and easy.
  • This could be treated as another difference between cation and anion. The anion name is the second, and the suffix may need to change. If it's a single atom, use the elemental name and replace the ending with "-ide". For example, Cl is no longer chlorine but chloride. For polyatomic ions, you don't need to change anything.
  • You may wonder "What does the Roman numeral in a chemical name indicate, then?" and be completely justified. Generally, these refer to the oxidation number of an atom but it's a bit different for ionic compounds. Some cations, usually transition metals, can take on multiple charges and we want to specify which ion we are considering. This is done by writing the Roman numeral in parentheses following the element name. For example, MnBr₂ is manganese(II) bromide - Mn has a charge of 2+. MnBr₃ would be called manganese(III) bromide as the charge is different.

Although it doesn't seem like much, these rules can sometimes be confusing. Luckily, the chemical name calculator remembers them for you!

Properties of ionic compounds

Knowing how to use a substance is fantastic, but, to get there, we need to comprehend the properties of ionic compounds first. Here are some of them:

  • High melting and boiling points - You need a large amount of energy to break the bonds between cations and anions. They're held together strongly by electrostatic forces - so strongly, in fact, that the binary ionic compound sodium chloride has a melting point of 801°C (1,474° F) and boiling point of 1,465 °C (2,575° F)!
  • Conductivity - Solid ionic compounds don't conduct electricity because the movement of ions is impossible. They are good conductors in a molten state and solutions.
  • Hard but brittle - Ionic compounds generally form crystals that are hard to break, but when they do, they shatter. Interestingly, it usually happens along smooth planes due to the regular arrangement of ions.
  • Solubility - They're typically soluble in polar solvents like water, but not so much in non-polar solvents like petrol.

Applications of the binary ionic compounds (and not only)

Developments in science have lead to a massive improvements in many aspects of life. This may prompt us to ask, "What does the knowledge of common chemical compounds give us?" Plenty, actually! Let's see some of the applications of the substances the chemical name calculator:

  • Think green! CO2 emission is one of the most urgent issues that need to be addressed. Ionic liquids can potentially serve as absorbents and help us capture carbon dioxide.
  • You probably have heard about electrolytes and how important they are for proper hydration, especially if you're physically active. Well, electrolytes are nothing else but ions, and some compounds can be dissolved to boost the nutritional value of your water.
  • Do you enjoy fireworks? If so, there's a chance you're fond of barium chloride, as it's widely used due to its ability to create green explosions. For fans of the color red, it could be strontium carbonate. Other common chemical compounds used for this purpose are copper(I) chloride, sodium oxalate, and calcium sulfate.
  • Ions are popular components batteries. Does the name "Li-on" ring a bell? Well, it's short for lithium-ion. It's not just Li, though, but the other elements vary. An example would be a lithium iodine battery.

If you'd like to learn more about them, knowing the names and formulas of ionic compounds can be useful in deciphering some sources - and our chemical name calculator can help you with that!


Is magnesium a cation or anion?

Magnesium has a positive charge, as indicated by its molecular formula Mg2+. Therefore, it's a cation - or, rather, becomes one when it loses two electrons from its outer shell. Magnesium ions are the fourth most abundant cation in the human body.

What is the name of the ionic compound BaCO₃?

BaCO₃ is a formula representing a compound named barium carbonate. It's used in ceramics, paints, some plastics, and, additionally, as a rat poison.

What is the difference between a compound and a molecule?

A molecule consists of at least two elements joined chemically, whereas a compound is a molecule that contains at least two different elements. For example, O2 is a molecule but not a compound.

What is the chemical name of water?

The chemical formula for water is H₂O, which can be read as hydrogen oxide. It's not to be confused with hydrogen peroxide (H₂O₂) - this is what you'd use to disinfect wounds or bleach your hair, not for drinking!

What is the chemical name of salt?

Table salt's systematic name is sodium chloride, and its formula is NaCl. It means that there's one sodium cation (Na⁺) for every chloride anion (Cl⁻).

Michael Darcy
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Ionic compound name: Aluminum Azide
Chemical formula: Al(N₃)₃
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