Electrochemical Cells and Electrochemistry

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  • 0:04 Electrochemistry
  • 2:22 Electrochemical Cell Diagram
  • 2:58 Make a Homemade Battery
  • 3:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Meyers

Amy holds a Master of Science. She has taught science at the high school and college levels.

Learn to identify the parts of and be able to describe an electrochemical cell, including the electrolyte, electrodes, anodes, and cathodes. Learn how to make a homemade lemon battery and how to diagram an electrochemical cell that will light a light bulb.


Electrochemistry. This is where the chemical world meets the electrical world. Electrochemistry is when chemical energy is transformed into electrical energy, which is then often transformed into another kind of energy, such as light or heat. It is extremely important to us because of how much electricity we use in our daily lives. Electricity, remember, is the flow of electrons through a path, usually a wire. The whole path is called a circuit.

A flashlight is an example of electrochemistry. Its batteries are undergoing a chemical reaction that transfers chemical energy to electrical energy to light energy.

Parts of an Electrochemical Cell

The parts of an electrochemical cell
Electrochemical Cell Diagram

The flashlight battery is an electrochemical cell. An electrochemical cell is something that changes chemical energy to electrical energy. It contains two compartments, each with an electrode submerged in an electrolyte. The electrode is just a conductor, usually a metal that connects to a nonmetallic part of a circuit. The electrolyte is a fluid that conducts electricity. One of the plates is positive and one of them is negative. Those two plates are called the cathode and anode, and they're connected by a wire that completes the circuit.

Often, one metal strip in the battery is copper, and it acts as a cathode, which is the electrode where reduction takes place and electrons are gained. The other electrode is the anode, often zinc, where oxidation takes place and electrons are lost. Electrons leave the system from the anode and go into the wire.

So, what happens is the electrons on the anode are lost and travel through the wire to the cathode, where electrons are gained. The solutions the two electrodes are in help conduct the electrons from the surface of the electrode to the wire. The two electrodes are in separate compartments, separated by a porous barrier or salt bridge. The barrier or bridge allows the ions in both solutions to move from one side to the other to prevent charge from building up on the electrodes.

The chemical reaction that occurs in the electrochemical cell is a redox, or reduction-oxidation, reaction. As its name implies, that reaction's made up of two parts: a reduction reaction where electrons are gained and an oxidation reaction where electrons are lost.

Electrochemical Cell Diagram

Electrons move from the anode to the cathode through the wire.
Electrochemical Complete Circuit

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