We say that when an atom loses an electron it becomes positively charged ion, and similarly when an atom gains electrons it becomes a negatively charged ion. My question is that are 'positive' and 'negative' just labels indicating more protons than electrons or vice versa, or do the ions actually display an increased interaction towards other charged particles?

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    $\begingroup$ Is the sum printed on your bank account statement just a label indicating more or less dollars, or do you actually display an increased ability to buy goods? $\endgroup$ – Ivan Neretin Nov 24 '17 at 7:23
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    $\begingroup$ Are you familiar with electroplating ? $\endgroup$ – MSalters Nov 24 '17 at 13:13
  • $\begingroup$ Ummm, and here I was thinking for a moment that this is question "If ionic bonding is just a label?" which may be worth these upvotes. And here it looks like joke... $\endgroup$ – Mithoron Nov 24 '17 at 14:24

These ionic charges actually do behave as you would expect from electric charges: cations will be drawn towards the negative pole in an electrolytic cell while anions will be drawn towards the positive pole. The same feature can be observed with α and β radiation (which are $\ce{^4_2He^2+}$ and electrons, respectively); these are deflected in an electric field as expected.

On a more philosophical level, the entire concept of one charge being ‘positive’ while the other is ‘negative’ is of course meaningless. We might as well have called them ‘East’ and ‘West’ charges akin to the North and South poles of a compass. The only physically observable is that the two act as opposites; two particles of like charge will repel, two of opposite will attract. Having positive and negative charges makes calculations much easier though.


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