Charge density refers to the amount of charge present in a given volume or surface area or unit length. It is an important concept that is used to explain a variety of phenomena, including the strength of chemical bonds, the reactivity of chemical species, and the behavior of ions in solution.

Charge density is calculated by dividing the total charge of an ion or molecule by its volume or surface area or unit length. In general, the higher the charge density of a species, the stronger its interactions with other charged particles, such as other ions or polar molecules. This can lead to the formation of strong chemical bonds, such as ionic bonds, and can also affect the solubility and reactivity of chemical species.

Overall, understanding charge density is an important aspect of chemistry, as it provides insight into the behavior of ions and molecules in a wide range of chemical systems.

Charge Density and its Types

 In simple, the charge-to-size ratio is referred to as charge density. There are three types of charge density. Charge to volume ratio is called volume charge density (ρ). The charge-to-surface area ratio is referred to as surface charge density (σ). The ratio between charge and unit length is called linear charge density (λ).

charge density = charge/size

Factors Affecting Charge Density

Charge density can simplify explanations of the relative strengths of metallic and ionic bonds. For instance, Mg2+ ions attract Cl ions more strongly than Na+ ions due to their greater charge. However, comparing the attraction between Na+ and Cl with Rb+ and Cl, there is no difference in charge but a difference in size.

charge density ∝ charge

charge density ∝ 1/size

Periodic Trend of Charge Density

Charge densities (C mm-3) are calculated according to the formula,

charge density = ne ÷ (4/3)πr3


  • r = ionic radius = in millimetres
  • e = electron charge = 1.60 × 10-19 C
  • n = ionic charge

In Periods

Charge Density of Second Period

From group I-A to IV-A, the charge density generally increases from left to right in a period. This is due to the increase in ionic charge as we move from left to right, which attracts the valence electrons more strongly, thereby reducing the atomic radius and increasing the charge density. However, from group V-A to VII-A, we observe a gradual decrease in charge density as we move from left to right in a period. This is due to the presence of additional valence electrons in the p orbital, thereby increasing the atomic radius and decreasing the charge density. Therefore, in s and p block elements, the trend in charge density across the periods is not uniform.

second period chart

d- Block Trend of Charge Density 

periodic trend for transition elements

When considering the trend in charge density across the periods of the d-block elements, we observe that there is no clear general trend that can be assigned. This is primarily due to the fact that almost every transition element shows variable oxidation states.

In Groups

Charge Density of I-A Group

charge density graph of 1st group

Charge Density of VII-A Group Anions

 VII-A group anions trend

Charge Density of II-B Group

charge density in transition elements group

When moving down a group in the periodic table, the atomic radius increases. This is due to the increasing number of electron shells, which causes the electrons to be farther away from the nucleus, resulting in a larger atomic radius. However, the ionic charge remains the same in a given group. Therefore, the charge density decreases from top to bottom in a group.

Also, unravel the enigma,

Charge Density and Melting Point

Giant ionic structures have really high melting points because of the strong attraction between their ions. This attraction depends on the charge density. Double-charged ions make the attraction stronger, which leads to higher melting points. Smaller ions also contribute to a stronger attraction, resulting in higher melting points. When ions are smaller, they have a higher charge density, leading to stronger forces between them. This results in a higher melting point. For example, MgO has a higher melting point than CaO because MgO ions are smaller than CaO ions, resulting in stronger forces between them.

Charge density ∝ melting point

Concepts Berg

What is charge density? 

Charge density is a measure of the amount of electric charge per unit volume or per unit area or per unit length of an ion.

What is the unit of charge density? 

The unit for volume charge density is,
C m-3 
For surface charge density is,
 C m-2
And for linear charge density is,
C m-1

What is the symbol of charge density? 

The symbol of volume charge density is ρ, surface charge density is σ, and linear charge density is λ.

How does charge density affect melting points?

Melting point ∝ charge density 
The greater the charge density, the higher will be the melting point.

What factors affect the charge density?

The charge and size of an ion affect the charge density of that ion.
Charge density ∝ charge ∝ 1/size

Reference Books

  • Introduction to Chemistry by Amos Turk

Reference links