One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Chemistry. The spontaneous ionization of a substance or molecule; a reaction between two identical neutral molecules, especially in a solution, to produce an anion and a cation.
Physics. The spontaneous transition of an atom to an ionized state of lower energy with the emission of an electron (but no emission of radiation).
Early 20th century; earliest use found in Journal of the American Chemical Society. From auto- + ionization.
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