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Electrolytic Cell

In an electrolytic cell, electric current drives the chemical reaction. The chemical reaction involved in an electrolytic cell is nonspontaneous. Electric current is used to drive the reaction. This process is called electrolysis and hence the name, electrolytic cell. The reaction involves the transfer of electrons and thus it is a redox reaction. For further understanding of the functioning of an electrolytic cell, we will look at an example of an electrolytic cell involving the electrolysis of molten sodium chloride. Molten sodium chloride is a good conductor of electricity. The melting point of NaCl is around 800o C.
The cell contains molten sodium chloride into which two electrodes are immersed, as shown in Figure 12-1. One electrode is connected to the positive terminal of the battery, and the other is connected to the negative terminal of the battery. The electrode that is connected to the positive terminal of the battery is the anode. The other electrode is the cathode. Reduction occurs at the cathode, and oxidation occurs at the anode. When the current starts flowing the reaction starts, as described below:

image\25269 ch 12.png

Electrolytic cell set up showing the electrolysis of molten NaCl

As the reaction proceeds, the sodium ions (Na+) are reduced to sodium (Na) at the cathode, and the sodium metal is deposited at the cathode. On the other hand, the chloride (Cl) ions are oxidized at the anode forming chlorine gas (Cl2). The half-reactions and the overall reaction are represented below:

image\25277 ch 12.png

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