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Breaking of a chemical compound into simpler constituents as a result of added energy, as in the case of gaseous molecules dissociated by heating; also, the effect of a solvent on a dissolved polar compound (electrolyte), as in the case of an inorganic salt, such as sodium chloride, dissolved in water. All electrolytes dissociate into ions to a greater or lesser extent in polar solvents (in which the molecules are electric dipoles). The degree of dissociation can be used to determine the equilibrium constant. Dissociation is used to explain electrical conductivity and many other properties of electrolytic solutions.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on dissociation, visit Britannica.com.