What is Electrolysis, the Mechanisms of Electrolysis Explained
Electrolysis is to make chemical reactions happen by means of electric current. The basic reactions by electrolysis is cleavage of molecules to produce two new substances, but additional reactions can occur that gives a more complicated result.
For electrolysis to occur, the substance treated must consist of electrically charged atoms or atom groups, called ions, wholly or partially. It is the ions that take part in the process. If the material is only partly made up of ions, new ins will be produced in the material during the electrolysis.
THE BASIC MECHANISM OF ELECTROLYSIS
By electrolysis you have a positive and a negative electrode immersed in a solution of a material split into ions, or some melted material of the kind, often a salt, a base or an acid.
Positive ions, usually metallic ions, are attracted to the negative electrode, cathode, where they get an electron and are converted to molecules of the substance or to solid metal. The substance can be deposited onto the cathode, escape as gas or get into the solution
Negative ions wander to the positive electrode, anode, where they deliver an electron and are converted to molecules. Again he substance can be deposited onto the anode, escape as gas or get into the solution.
Often additional reactions can occur with one or both of the products, so the end result is not always the direct result of the electrolysis. Often one of the products reacts with water in the solution.
ELECTROLYSIS OD COPPER CLORIDE
A simple electrolysis is that of of copper chloride, CuCl, dissolved in water or melted. The copper is found as positively charged ions, CU+, that wander towards the cathode, while the negatively charged chlorine ion, Cl-, wanders to the anode. Metallic copper is produced and deposited ar the cathode. Chlorine is produced by the positive anode, that escapes as gas.
ELECTROLYSIS OF COMMON SALT
Another simple electrolysis is that of of common salt, HCl, dissolved in water or melted. The hydrogen is positively charged ions that wander towards the cathode, while the negatively charged chloride ion wanders to the anode. Hydrogen is produced by the cathode that escapes as gas. Chlorine is produced by the positive anode, that also escapes as gas.
This reaction is somewaht more complicated when occuring in solution, because hydrogen ions that are bare protons are not free, but catched in a water molecule. The complex of a proton and hydrogen, H3O+, is actually what wanders to the cathode where the proton gets and electron to form hydrogen atoms that are combined to molecules, H2, that escape as gas.
ELECTROLYSIS OF COPPER SULFATE
Another example of electrolysis, which is more complex, is that of Copper sulfate, CuSO4, in watery solution. Copper will be deposited onto the cathode. At the anode, the produced neutral group so4 will react with water to produce oxygen and sulfuric acid H2SO4 that will dissolve in water.
ELECTROLYSIS OF A SOLUTION OF SODIUM HYDROXIDE
By electrolysis of sodium hydroxyde, NaOh, in water, the end result is not a consume of NaOh, but production of hydrogen by the cathode and oxygen by the anode.
Na+ wanders to the cathode, gets an electron and is converted to NA. But Na is very reactive. There Na-atoms will imediately react width water to produce new Na+, OH- and hydrogen molecules that escape by the cathode.
The hydroxyl ion wanders to the anode where it delivers an electrone to produce OH. There OH groups will react to form water and oxygen.
Because NA+ and OH- is regenerated by the cathode, and less water is produced by the anode than that consumed by the cathode, the end result is consume of water, a steadily more concentrated NaOH solution, production of hydrogen by the cathode and production of oxygen by the anode.
By Knut Holt
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