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Electrochemical cell is a device which either producing electrical energy from chemical reactions, or undergoing chemical reactions with the help of electrical energy.
Let consider an experimental setup for an electrochemical cell.
Here the two electrodes used are zinc and copper. The solutions used are zinc sulphate and copper sulphate. The two electrodes are connected with a conductive wire. The electrodes are separated with a porous material between them.
The zinc sulphate solution produces zinc and sulphate ions and copper sulphate produces copper and sulphate ions. Zinc atoms release electrons into the solution, these electrons are positive ions. The copper electrode receives electrons that are deposited on the copper electrode. These electrons are carried from the positive electrode to the negative electrode through the sulfate ions.
The mass of zinc electrode decreases and the copper electrode gains mass.
The reaction is represented as
Zn → Zn2+ + 2e-
Cu2+ + 2e- → Cu
Here zinc undergoes oxidation by losing electrons and copper undergoes reduction by gaining electrons. This is called a redox reaction.
The deposition of ions on copper and deficiency of zinc electrode causes a potential difference which leads to the flow of electrons between the electrodes. This is nothing but electrical current.
movement of ions generates electricity in the wire connecting the
electrodes. in order to ensure steady supply of electricity, the metal
ions are prevented from moving from one electrode to another and only
the sulphate ions that carry the charges are allowed to move through the
porous material the separates the electrode.
The above electrochemical cell experiment demonstrates the generation of electric current from a chemical reaction. The current passing through the wire is measured using an ammeter. Electrochemical cells have several applications in industrial field. There are custom made electrochemical cells for specific applications.