What is the difference between a free radical and a radical cation? Are they different thing or do they mean same?

  • $\begingroup$ The difference is one electron ;-) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ @KlausWarzecha Not always: radical dications...? $\endgroup$
    – hBy2Py
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 18:26
  • $\begingroup$ Related: The answer to chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/9579 gives one example for the generation of a radical cation and how it is converted to a radical. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 18:41

1 Answer 1


A radical cation is simply a free radical with a positive charge. Similarly a radical anion is a free radical with a negative charge.

In other words, radical cations and radical anions are subsets of the free radicals.

That said, the term free radical itself is not entirely clear cut, as illustrated in this question.


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