Electrolysis Products

The electrochemical cell that facilitates a chemical reaction via the induction of electrical energy is called an electrolytic cell. The process of carrying out non-spontaneous reactions under the influence of electrical energy is called electrolysis. Electrolysis is commercially essential as a stage for the separation of elements from the naturally occurring substances such as the ores with the help of an electrolytic cell. The voltage which is needed for the electrolysis to occur is known as the decomposition potential. In this article, we will learn about electrolysis, mechanism of electrolysis, and the process of electrolysis. Let us first learn about the electrolysis process in detail.

What is Electrolysis?

Electrolysis is a process by which the electric current is passed through a substance which effects sort of a chemical change. This chemical change is the one in which the substance loses or gains an electron, which means, it undergoes oxidation or reduction. This process is carried out in an electrolytic cell, which is an apparatus that consists of the positive and the negative electrodes held apart and are dipped into a solution containing the positively and the negatively charged ions. 

The substance that is to be transformed might form the electrode, might constitute the solution or might be dissolved in the solution. Electric current, that is, the electrons enters through the negatively charged electrode or the cathode. The components of the solution travel to this electrode, combine with the electrons and are transformed or reduced. The products that are obtained can either be neutral elements or new molecules. 

The components of the solution also travel to the other electrode, which is the anode, give up their electrons, and are transformed or oxidized to the neutral elements or new molecules. If the substance to be transformed is the electrode, then the reaction is often the one in which the electrode dissolves by giving up the electrons. 

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Factors Affecting the Product of Electrolysis

Given below are the factors affecting the product of electrolysis.

  1. The products of electrolysis depend on the material that is being electrolyzed. In simpler words, the nature of electrolyte decides the process of electrolysis. This process is fast for a strong electrolyte whereas for a weaker electrolyte an extra potential, otherwise known as overpotential, is required. Products of electrolysis depend on the value of this overpotential too.

  2. The products of electrolysis depend upon the nature of electrodes as well. This means that, in the case of the inert electrode (for example, gold, and platinum), it does not participate in the reaction, whereas, in case the electrode that is used is reactive in nature, it takes part in the reaction.

  3. Several oxidising and reducing agents present in the electrolytic cell affect the products of electrolysis.

  4. The products of electrolysis depend on the standard electrode potentials of the different oxidizing and reducing agents that are present in the electrolytic cell.

  5. In case there are multiple reactions, the product of electrolysis depends upon the standard electrode potential of several reactions that are taking place. For example, the electrolysis of an aqueous solution of sodium chloride. Out of the several multiple reduction reactions that are taking place, the reduction reaction that has the highest value of the standard electrode potential takes place at the cathode. Similarly, out of the several oxidation reactions, the oxidation reaction that has the lowest value of the standard electrode potential takes place at the anode.

Inert Electrode

Let us now learn about what is an inert electrode.

An inert electrode is an electrode which serves only as a source or sink for the electrons without taking part as a chemical role in the electrode reaction. Precious metals, mercury, and carbon are some of the elements that are generally used as inert electrodes. The inert nature of the electrode can often be questioned. However, the electrode may not take part in the reaction in the form of a reactant or a product but can still act as an electrocatalyst.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is Electrolysis?

Electrolysis is the process that makes use of an electric current through an electrolyte for creating a non-spontaneous chemical reaction. It is the passing of a direct electric current via an ionic substance which is either in the molten state or is dissolved in a suitable solvent and produces chemical reactions at the electrodes and decomposes the materials.

2. What is an Inert Electrode and an Active Electrode?

Inert electrodes are the electrodes do not enter the electrolytic chemical reactions and are made up of noble metals such as platinum.

Active electrodes are the electrodes which take part in the reactions of electrolysis and can be either dissolved into the electrolyte or any other substance is deposited on them.