Electrochemistry deals with chemical reactions that produce electricity and the changes associated with the passage of electrical current through matter. The reactions involve electron transfer, and so they are oxidation-reduction (or redox) reactions. Many metals may be purified or electroplated using electrochemical methods. Devices such as automobiles, smartphones, electronic tablets, watches, pacemakers, and many others use batteries for power. Batteries use chemical reactions that produce electricity spontaneously and that can be converted into useful work. All electrochemical systems involve the transfer of electrons in a reacting system. In many systems, the reactions occur in a region known as the cell, where the transfer of electrons occurs at electrodes.
- 16.1: Balancing Oxidation-Reduction Reactions
- An electric current consists of moving charge. The charge may be in the form of electrons or ions. Current flows through an unbroken or closed circular path called a circuit. The current flows through a conducting medium as a result of a difference in electrical potential between two points in a circuit. Electrical potential has the units of energy per charge. In SI units, charge is measured in coulombs (C), current in amperes, and electrical potential in volts.
- 16.2: Galvanic Cells
- Electrochemical cells typically consist of two half-cells. The half-cells separate the oxidation half-reaction from the reduction half-reaction and make it possible for current to flow through an external wire. One half-cell contains the anode. Oxidation occurs at the anode. The anode is connected to the cathode in the other half-cell. Reduction occurs at the cathode. Adding a salt bridge completes the circuit allowing current to flow.
- 16.3: Standard Reduction Potentials
- Assigning the potential of the standard hydrogen electrode (SHE) as zero volts allows the determination of standard reduction potentials, E°, for half-reactions in electrochemical cells. As the name implies, standard reduction potentials use standard states (1 bar or 1 atm for gases; 1 M for solutes, often at 298.15 K) and are written as reductions (where electrons appear on the left side of the equation).
- 16.4: The Nernst Equation
- Electrical work is the negative of the product of the total charge (Q) and the cell potential (Ecell). The total charge can be calculated as the number of moles of electrons (n) times the Faraday constant (F = 96,485 C/mol e−). Electrical work is the maximum work that the system can produce and so is equal to the change in free energy. Thus, anything that can be done with or to a free energy change can also be done to or with a cell potential.
- 16.5: Batteries and Fuel Cells
- Batteries are galvanic cells, or a series of cells, that produce an electric current. When cells are combined into batteries, the potential of the battery is an integer multiple of the potential of a single cell. There are two basic types of batteries: primary and secondary. Primary batteries are “single use” and cannot be recharged. Dry cells and (most) alkaline batteries are examples of primary batteries. The second type is rechargeable and is called a secondary battery.
- 16.6: Corrosion
- Corrosion is the degradation of a metal caused by an electrochemical process. Large sums of money are spent each year repairing the effects of, or preventing, corrosion. Some metals, such as aluminum and copper, produce a protective layer when they corrode in air. The thin layer that forms on the surface of the metal prevents oxygen from coming into contact with more of the metal atoms and thus “protects” the remaining metal from further corrosion. Iron corrodes (forms rust) when exposed to wate
- 16.7: Electrolysis
- Using electricity to force a nonspontaneous process to occur is electrolysis. Electrolytic cells are electrochemical cells with negative cell potentials (meaning a positive Gibbs free energy), and so are nonspontaneous. Electrolysis can occur in electrolytic cells by introducing a power supply, which supplies the energy to force the electrons to flow in the nonspontaneous direction. Electrolysis is done in solutions, which contain enough ions so current can flow.
- 16.E: Electrochemistry (Exercises)
- These are homework exercises to accompany the Textmap created for "Chemistry" by OpenStax. Complementary General Chemistry question banks can be found for other Textmaps and can be accessed here. In addition to these publicly available questions, access to private problems bank for use in exams and homework is available to faculty only on an individual basis; please contact Delmar Larsen for an account with access permission.
Contributors and Attributions
Paul Flowers (University of North Carolina - Pembroke), Klaus Theopold (University of Delaware) and Richard Langley (Stephen F. Austin State University) with contributing authors. Textbook content produced by OpenStax College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 license. Download for free at http://cnx.org/contents/85abf193-2bd...firstname.lastname@example.org).