Giant Ionic Lattices

So far we have learnt about the way that an individual ionic bond forms. This involves a single cation and a single anion coming together due to electrostatic attraction.

The simplified diagram below represents this situation. Rather than showing all of the subatomic particles that make up each ion, the cation is simply shown as a red circle with a plus sign (+) on it and the anion is shown as a blue circle with a minus sign (-) on it:

A diagram of an ionic bond. It consists of two circles in a row, touching each other. The left circle is red and has a white plus sign in the middle of it. This represents the cation. The right circle is blue and has a white minus sign on it. This represents the anion.

A simplified diagram of an ionic bond.

However, in reality there is never just a single ionic bond. What actually happens is that millions of cations and millions of anions come together to form a structure called a giant ionic lattice.

This is shown in the diagram below:

An 8 by 8 grid of ions. The ions alternate between cations and ions, so that each cation is only touching anions and each anion is only touching cations.

A giant ionic lattice.

In this giant ionic lattice, notice how each cation is only touching anions and each anion is only touching cations. The ions arrange themselves this way because oppositely charged ions are attracted to each other, whereas like charged ions repel each other.

Each cation has ionic bonds to all of the anions around it, and each anion has ionic bonds to all of the cations around it.

A giant ionic lattice is actually a three dimensional (3D) structure. The diagram above only shows a single layer. The full 3D structure looks more like this:

A giant ionic lattice in three dimensions. The diagram shows a cube made up of ions arranged in columns and rows. Each cation is surrounded by anions and each anion is surrounded by cations.

A giant ionic lattice shown in three dimensions.


Flashcards help you memorise information quickly. Copy each question onto its own flashcard and then write the answer on the other side. Testing yourself on these regularly will enable you to learn much more quickly than just reading and making notes.


What kind of structure is formed when ionic bonding takes place?


How are the cations and anions arranged in a giant ionic lattice?


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