The ax electrolysis was very first popularized in the 19th century through Michael Faraday. It was a process that assisted in the examine of chemical reactions in obtaining pure elements. Today, electrolysis is commercially essential as it is used widely in separating or obtaining pure aspects from naturally arising sources such as ores.

You are watching: When an electric current is passed through water during the process of electrolysis

Table the Content

What is Electrolysis?

Electrolysis is characterized as a procedure of decomposing ionic compounds right into their facets by passing a straight electric current through the link in a liquid form. The cations are reduced at cathode and also anions room oxidized in ~ the anode. The main materials that are required for conducting electrolysis room an electrolyte, electrodes, and also some kind of exterior power resource is additionally needed. Additionally, a partition such as an ion-exchange membrane or a salt leg is additionally used however this is optional. These are used largely to keep the assets from diffusing near the opposite electrode.

An acidified or salt-containing water have the right to be decomposed by pass electric current to their original aspects hydrogen and also oxygen. Molten sodium chloride can be decomposed come sodium and also chlorine atoms.


Electrolysis is typically done in a vessel named ‘electrolytic cell’ containing 2 electrodes (cathode and anode) associated to a direct current resource and an electrolyte i beg your pardon is one ionic link undergoing decomposition, in one of two people molten type or in a dissolves state in a perfect solvent. Generally, electrodes that are made indigenous metal, graphite and also semiconductor materials are used. However, the selection of a an ideal electrode is done based upon chemical reactivity between the electrode and also electrolyte as well as the production cost.

Electrolytic Process

In the procedure of electrolysis, there is an interchange the ions and also atoms because of the addition or removed of electron from the outside circuit. Basically, on passing current, cations relocate to the cathode, take electrons from the cathode (given through the it is provided source-battery), and is discharged into the neutral atom. The neutral atom, if solid, is deposited on the cathode and if gas, relocate upwards. This is a reduction procedure and the cation is, lessened at the cathode.

Also Read: Water Electrolysis

At the same time anions, offer up your extra electrons to the anode and is oxidized come neutral atoms at the anode. Electrons released by the anions travel throughout the electric circuit and also reach the cathode completing the circuit. Electrolysis requires a simultaneously oxidation reaction in ~ anode and a palliation reaction at the cathode.

For example, when electrical current, is, passed with molten sodium chloride, the sodium ion is attracted by the cathode, native which, that takes an electrode and becomes a salt atom.

Chloride ion will the anode, offers its electron, and become chlorine atom to form chlorine molecule.

Na+(in electrolyte) + e–(from cathode) → Na …. In ~ Cathode

Cl–(from electrolyte) → e– + Cl → Cl2 …. At Anode

Electrolysis process, while advantageous to acquire elemental forms from compound directly, that can likewise be supplied indirectly in the metallurgy the alkali and also alkaline earth metals, purification that metals, deposition that metals, ready of link etc.d

Cell Potential or Voltage

The minimum potential necessary for the electrolysis process depends ~ above their capacity of the individual ions to absorb or release electrons. The is also sometimes described as decomposition potential or decomposition voltage i beg your pardon is the minimum voltage (difference in electrode potential) between anode and cathode of an electrolytic cabinet that enables electrolysis to occur.

The voltage in ~ which electrolysis is thermodynamically preferred is the distinction of the electrode potentials as calculated using the Nernst equation. Applying additional voltage, described as overpotential, have the right to increase the price of reaction and also is frequently needed over the thermodynamic value. That is especially necessary because that electrolysis reactions involving gases, together as oxygen, hydrogen or chlorine.

This capability is, measured together an electrode potential of the ions present in the electrolytic cell. The cell potential is the amount of the potential compelled for the reduction and also oxidation reaction. The potential affiliated in various redox reactions is accessible in literary works as standard reduction potential.

Reaction with positive redox cell potentials just will it is in feasible as per thermodynamic Gibbs complimentary energy (or traditional potential). Generally, the electrolysis is thermodynamically controlled.

In electrolysis, a potential same to or slightly much more than that, is, applied externally. The ions, which space stable and not reacting, room made to experience reaction in the existence of externally used potential. External potential hence makes an unfavourable reaction to take place. In electrolysis, chemistry bonds connecting atoms space either do or broken and so, electrolysis involves the conversion of electrical energy into chemical energy.

Faraday’s law of Electrolysis

The lot of the redox reaction depends on the quantity of electrical energy flowing through the cell. Quantity of reaction or the variety of ions discharged is provided by Faraday’s law of electrolysis. There room two laws.

Faraday’s first law deserve to be summary as;

m=EQ96485=EIt96485m=fracEQ96485=fracEIt96485m=96485EQ​=96485EIt​. Here, m is the fixed of the substance that has actually undergone change, E is the tantamount mass the the substance, ‘I’ is the current and ”t is the moment in seconds of the passing of current.

Faraday’s 2nd law compare the fixed of different substances experience a change for the same current.

According to this 2nd law, M1M2=E1E2    or    M1M2=M1E2fracM_1M_2=fracE_1E_2,,, or,,,, fracM_1M_2=fracM_1E_2M2​M1​​=E2​E1​​ orM2​M1​​=E2​M1​​

Here, M and also E space the adjusted mass and equivalent fixed of the building materials respectively.

Product that Electrolysis

Electrolysis of only two ions (cation and also anion) existing in a single electrolyte is direct. Electrolysis will certainly produce assets present in the compound. When more than one cation and anions space present, every ion will complete for reduction and oxidations. Reactions with an ext positive redox potentials will certainly be, decreased or oxidized, in preference, come others.

Also Read: Nernst Equation

So, despite multiple redox couples present, only one have the right to be reduced or oxidized. Occasionally the ions that are diminished or oxidized may depend top top their relative amount. In various other words, the redox reaction and also electrolysis may become kinetically controlled. In together cases, the product of evaluation may different on the family member concentration of the assorted ions present in the electrolyte.

For example, electrolysis that aqueous salt chloride might give different products-

Hydrogen and chlorine,Hydrogen and also oxygen andHydrogen, oxygen and chlorine.

Factors affecting Electrolysis

The factors that may affect the electrolysis are;

i) The nature that the electrode

ii) Nature and state of the electrolyte

iii) Nature and electrode potential of ions current in the electrolyte and

iv) Overvoltage at the electrodes.

i) Nature and State of the Electrolyte

Electrolysis requires the movement of ions in the direction of the oppositely charged electrodes. Naturally, the electrolyte should have actually mobile ions. In solids, ions are in certain positions and also cannot relocate at ordinary temperatures. Hence, solids space unsuitable because that electrolysis.

For electrolysis, electrolyte need to be in the fluid form- molten or in solution with a perfect polar solvent. Sodium chloride will undergo electrolysis in the molten state or in aqueous solution.

ii) Nature and also Electrode Potential of Ions existing in the Electrolyte

Electrolysis the electrolytes of 2 elemental ions is right forward providing the two facets on electrolysis. Molten sodium chloride gives sodium atoms and also chlorine molecule.Electrolysis that radical ions does not offer the element atoms.Electrolytes containing much more than one ionic compound relies on the loved one redox potentials.Electrolysis that aqueous options of electrolytes. Water molecules additionally can experience redox reactions and also will contend with redox reactions of the electrolyte ions.Electrolysis the molten salt chloride offers sodium and chlorine. Yet electrolysis of aqueous salt chloride provides hydrogen and chlorine and not sodium.

Also Check ⇒ Electrolytes

iii) Nature that the Electrode

For the exact same electrolyte, the nature of the electrolyte might give different products. Once aqueous copper sulphate equipment is, electrolyzed, the adhering to redox reactions space possible.

At cathode: palliation at pH =7

Cu2+ (aq) + 2e →Cu (s) E° = 0.34V and 2H2O + 2e→H2 + 2OH E° = -1.02V

At anode: Oxidation in ~ pH = 7

Cu(s) →Cu2+ (aq) + 2e E° = – 0.34V and also 2H2O → O2(g) + 4H+ + 4e E° = +1.4 V

At the cathode, the end of the two electrodes palliation potential that copper ions is much more positive 보다 the palliation of water. So, regardless of whether of electrode, copper ions from the electrolyte will certainly be reduced and deposited top top the cathode, increasing its mass. But the reaction at anode depends on the electrode.

Also Read: Electrochemical Cells

Electrolysis through inert electrodes choose platinum, graphite, etc. Inert electrodes perform not react through the electrolyte or the products and so does not undergo any type of changes. Due to the fact that oxidation the water has an ext positive potential, oxygen will be progressed at the anode.

But, if the copper is used as one anode, it will react through the sulphate ion to maintain the electrolyte concentration. So, there will certainly not be any type of gas evolution. Instead, the anode mass progressively decreases going right into the solution.

iv) Overvoltage in ~ the Electrodes.

The oxidation potential the electrolyte ions decides the electrolysis reactions and also products. Sometimes, oxidization potentials of some half-reactions throughout the electrolysis is more than the thermodynamic potentials. This overfill voltage (over-voltage) of the half-reaction may make the reaction unfavourable and change the product of electrolysis.

In the hydrolysis the aqueous sodium chloride, at the anode, two oxidation reactions can take place. The palliation potential of water and also chloride is +0.82V and 0.1.36V respectively.

2H2O→O2(g) + 4H+ + 4e E° = -0.82 V

2Cl→ Cl2 + 2e E = – 1.36V

Oxidation of water being more positive is an ext feasible and so, the evolution of oxygen gas should take place at the anode. But, the development of oxygen from water has actually an overvoltage the -0.6V making the voltage because that the oxidation that water as -1.42V. Chloride oxidation is an ext positive than the network voltage the water oxidation. Chloride is oxidized come chlorine in ~ the anode. Chlorine is liberated and also not oxygen because of overvoltage.

Electrolysis Applications

Electrolysis, as declared above, is a process of convert the ion of a compound in a liquid state into their diminished or oxidized state by happen an electric current through the compound. Thus, electrolysis finds many applications both in experimental and also industrial products. Some of the crucial ones are:

1) decision of identical eight the substances.2) Metallurgy of alkali and alkaline earth metals.3) Purification that metals.4) produce of pure gases.5) manufacture of compounds choose sodium hydroxide, salt carbonate, potassium chlorate etc.6) Electroplating for corrosion resistance, ornaments etc.

We shall discuss the various applications that electrolysis in information below.

Determination of identical Eight the Substances

We understand Faraday’s 2nd Law states that the fixed of substances deposit is proportional come their tantamount weight. Mass of any kind of deposited substance can be, mathematically connected as;

M1E1=M2E2fracM_1E_1 = fracM_2E_2E1​M1​​=E2​M2​​

Equivalent mass of an unknown metal or substance can be calculation by pass a known current through the solutions and also determining the mass of substances (M1 and M2) deposited in their respective cells. If the identical of one problem is known, the tantamount mass of the unknown substance deserve to be calculated indigenous the over equation.

Electrolysis the Molten Salts

Metallurgy the alkali and alkaline planet and third group steels ores of metal are concentrated and also converted greatly to oxides. Oxides are decreased with to reduce agents such as carbon, aluminium etc. Since, alkali and also alkali planet metals have the largest reduction potentials they can not be, diminished by any kind of other metals or your compounds.

The only way of isolation the alkali and alkali planet metals is to straight electrolyze your molten chlorides. Mix with various other halides favor calcium chlorides reduce the melting allude of pure halides.

Electrorefining – Purification the Metals

Metals derived after concentration and also reduction the ores have actually a purity of about 90 -99%. One aqueous solution of the steel salt with the impure steel as anode and a pure metal as the cathode is electrolyzed. Pure metal, of more than 99% purity, store on the cathode and also the impurities are gathered at the bottom together mud. Copper and also nickel space some instances of the steel purified through electrorefining.


An object have the right to be, coated come the forced thickness v a select metal through electrolysis. The thing to be, coated is, do cathode. An aqueous solution of the steel salt to be coated is the electrolyte. The same steel or any inert metal have the right to be the anode. ~ above electrolysis, metal ion from the electrolyte store on the object. The lose of metal ions in the solution will be, compensated if the same steel is made the anode.

The deposition deserve to be, supplied to safeguard the steel from corrosion room for making ornaments etc. Coating of steel with metals like zinc, lead, chromium, nickel enhances the corrosion resistance of iron. Gold and silver coating ~ above cheaper metals is offered for making ornaments.

It is likewise used in electrochemical machining (ECM). Right here an electrolytic cathode is offered as a shaped tool for removing product by anodic oxidation indigenous a workpiece. ECM an approach is often used because that deburring or for placing a permanent mark or logo design on metal surfaces prefer tools or knives.


Electroforming is a process of making a replica that objects utilizing electrolysis. The thing to it is in replicated is pressed in wax to make a mould. Graphite flour is, coated uniformly to make it conducting. This is, offered as a cathode and the salt of the metal to be deposited is taken as the electrolyte. After obtaining the required coating through electrolysis, wax and the graphite are, melted away.

Manufacture the Pure Gases

Aqueous salt on hydrolysis productivity different assets depending ~ above the loved one concentrations of salt and water. Electrolysis of focused brine (sodium chloride) creates pure hydrogen and also chlorine gases. Pure chlorine gas is, built up in the Chlor-alkali sectors by the electrolysis that brine aqueous solution.

Pure hydrogen and also oxygen are, derived by hydrolysis that water in the presence of acid or basic or inert salt that alkali and also alkaline earth metals. Percentage of hydrogen for commercial use is produced by the electrolysis that water, worldwide.

Continuous electrolysis of water, removes all the normal hydrogen isotopes leaving the deuterium ions. The deuterium oxide leftover ~ electrolysis of regular water is ‘Heavy water’. Heavy water is offered as a moderator in nuclear reactors developing electrical energy from nuclear reactions.

Manufacture of Compounds

Compounds choose sodium hydroxide, sodium hydrosulphite, potassium permanganate, potassium chlorate, ammonium per-sulphate, hefty water etc. Are manufactured by electrolysis. Sodium hydroxide is a next product in the chloralkali industries preparing chlorine gas by the electrolysis the brine.

Potassium permanganate is derived by the electrolysis of potassium manganite solution. Ammonium sulphate or ammonium bisulphate top top electrolysis creates ammonium persulphate.


This is a specialized application that electrolysis. In this process, conductive crystals are grown on one of the electrodes from oxidized or reduced types that are created in situ. This method is popularly offered to manufacture single crystals the low-dimensional electric conductors such as direct chain compounds or charge-transfer salts.

Electrolysis troubles With Solutions

1. An steel pipe with 14cm diameter and also length that 1 meter is to be galvanized come a thickness that 0.01cm utilizing zinc nitrate solution and also a current of 25amp. What will certainly be the ns of mass from zinc anode and also what will certainly be the time compelled for the electrolysis? The thickness of zinc is 7.14g/cm3. The tantamount weight of zinc is 32.8

Volume that the zinc coating = 2πrxl × 0.01 cm3

Mass that the zinc to it is in coated= V × d

=2×227×142×1000×0.012 imesfrac227 imesfrac142 imes1000 imes0.012×722​×214​×1000×0.01 = 440g

Mass of the zinc lost from the anode = 440g.

By Faraday’s first Law the electrolysis,

m =EQ96485=EIt96485 or t=96485×mE×l=96485×44032.8×25=fracEQ96485=fracEIt96485,or,t= frac96485 imes mE imes l=frac 96485 imes 44032.8 imes 25=96485EQ​=96485EIt​ort=E×l96485×m​=32.8×2596485×440​ 51772sec = 14.4hrs

2. A existing of 3 amperes is, passed through neutral water containing a tiny amount of sodium Sulphate for one hour. Calculation the amount of hydrogen liberated in ~ one atmosphere.

See more: Directions To Baby Bump Baton Rouge, La 70808, Baby Bump 3535 Perkins Rd, Baton Rouge, La 70808

Number the coulombs pass = 3 × 60 × 60

Half reactions of the hydrolysis that water are-

At cathode: 2H2O + 2e– → H2(g) + 2OH–

At anode: 2H2O → O2(g) + 4H+ + 4e–

The net reaction the electrolysis that water is, 2H2O → 2H2(g) + O2(g)

Four faradays or 4 x 96485 coulomb that electric current liberates 2 mole or 2× 22.4L of hydrogen gas.

10800 coulombs the electric existing liberates Hydrogen =

2×22.4×108004×96485frac2 imes22.4 imes108004 imes964854×964852×22.4×10800​ = 1.25L

Total pressure above water = pressure of water vapour + push of hydrogen

The push of hydrogen = total pressure over water – press of water vapour

The press of hydrogen = 1atm – 0.0316atm =0.9684atm

So, volume of hydrogen liberated = 1.250.968frac1.250.9680.9681.25​ = 1.29L