There was a question asking why magnesium metal has a higher melting point than sodium.

In the answer, they said:

  • Magnesium has more delocalised electrons.
  • Magnesium ions have a greater positive charge.
  • Magnesium has a greater electrostatic attraction between ions and delocalised electrons.

However, in the mark scheme in the additional guidance, it also said the mark couldn't be given if you said:

Magnesium ions have a great nuclear charge rather than greater positive charge.

I was confused as to what the difference is.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What is your weight? Now what is the weight of your skeleton? Is there any difference? $\endgroup$ Commented May 5, 2018 at 7:34
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    – user7951
    Commented May 6, 2018 at 6:45

1 Answer 1


Nuclear charge is the charge present inside a nucleus, due to the protons. For example, a carbon atom has $+6e$ nuclear charge.

Ionic charge is the charge due to the gain or loss of electrons in the valence shell. So, the sodium ion has an ionic charge of $+1e$ (due to loss of one valence electron). That ion's nuclear charge is still $+11e$ (there are still 11 protons only).

The reason because nuclear charge as an answer to this question is unaccetable is because nuclear charge - being inside the nucleus - has largely no affect on the intermolecular forces between the magnesium atoms. Those magnesium atoms have intermolecular forces governed only by the valence electrons only.


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