Is it possible to separate ions dissolved in solution? I know that the charges have to be balanced, so thinking that maybe it is possible to artificially give that charge? Take for example, sodium hydroxide solution, would there be a way to put all the sodium cations in one area separate from the hydroxide anions?

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    $\begingroup$ Ever heard about Coulomb's law? Electric forces are really, really strong, about as strong as the strongest thing you can imagine, only stronger. $\endgroup$ Feb 2 at 8:35
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    $\begingroup$ There is a very well established ion separation technique, it is called ion-chromatography. You can "isolate" a given ion of interest from solution. Keep in mind that even in that technique, the charge balance is always maintained. Wikipedia has a nice detailed article. $\endgroup$
    – AChem
    Feb 2 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ Applying Coulomb's law, the force necessary to separate $1$ micromole $\ce{Na+}$ from $1$ micromole $\ce{Cl-}$ at a distance of $1$ meter is about $\pu{10^{12}}$ Newton. It is so huge that it cannot be represented by any reasonable way. And it would be even much greater if the separation distance would be smaller. If the separation distance is $1$ micron ($\ce{10^{-6}}$ meter) instead of $1$ meter, Coulomb's law states that this force would be about $\pu{10^{24}}$ Newton. It is not possible to find a reasonable way for describing such a huge force. $\endgroup$
    – Maurice
    Feb 4 at 20:13

1 Answer 1


Ions can be separated by a strong electric field of even by mechanical action. Examples are static electricity, lightning, both are recombination of separated ions recombining by a cascade mechanism. Mass spectrometers and particle accelerators separate ions and use the ions for analysis and nuclear reactions. alpha and beta nuclear decay initially have separated ions that eventually, or at least possibly, become neutral atoms. Electrical neutrality means that somewhere, sometime there will be a +charge for every -charge. In solution things happen faster but ions migrate anions to anode and cations to cathode and each type congregates.


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