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Electrochemical Cell vs. Electrolytic Cell: What's the Difference?

Edited by Sawaira Riaz || By Huma Saeed || Published on November 23, 2023
Electrochemical cells convert chemical energy to electrical energy, while electrolytic cells use electrical energy to drive non-spontaneous chemical reactions.

Key Differences

Electrochemical cells and electrolytic cells are both fundamental in the field of chemistry, but they operate on different principles and for different purposes. An electrochemical cell converts chemical energy into electrical energy through spontaneous redox reactions. In contrast, an electrolytic cell utilizes electrical energy to drive non-spontaneous chemical reactions. This fundamental difference in energy conversion and usage sets these two types of cells apart in both their operation and application.
Huma Saeed
Nov 23, 2023
In an electrochemical cell, the flow of electrons is from the anode to the cathode, generating an electric current that can be used to power devices. Electrolytic cells, however, require an external power source to force electrons from the cathode to the anode, reversing the typical flow found in electrochemical cells. This reversal is key to the operation of electrolytic cells, allowing them to facilitate chemical changes that wouldn't occur naturally.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 23, 2023
The practical applications of electrochemical cells are most commonly seen in various types of batteries, which power everything from small electronic devices to vehicles. Electrolytic cells find their use in industrial processes such as electroplating, metal purification, and the production of chemicals like chlorine and hydrogen. Thus, while electrochemical cells are often associated with energy storage and power supply, electrolytic cells are linked to manufacturing and material processing.
Huma Saeed
Nov 23, 2023
In terms of electrode reactions, electrochemical cells involve oxidation occurring at the anode and reduction at the cathode. For electrolytic cells, the reactions are the opposite: reduction occurs at the cathode and oxidation at the anode. These reactions at the electrodes define the cell's functionality, whether it's for generating electricity or conducting a specific chemical transformation.
Harlon Moss
Nov 23, 2023
The design considerations for these cells differ significantly. Electrochemical cells are often designed with a focus on efficiency, energy output, and portability, as seen in various commercial batteries. Electrolytic cells, in contrast, are typically designed for industrial applications, prioritizing factors like reaction rates, scalability, and product recovery. This difference in design philosophy reflects the distinct roles these cells play in technology and industry.
Huma Saeed
Nov 23, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Energy Conversion

Converts chemical to electrical energy
Uses electrical energy to drive reactions
Huma Saeed
Nov 23, 2023

Electron Flow

From anode to cathode
From cathode to anode
Huma Saeed
Nov 23, 2023

Primary Use

Powering devices (e.g., batteries)
Industrial processes (e.g., electroplating)
Huma Saeed
Nov 23, 2023

Electrode Reactions

Oxidation at anode, reduction at cathode
Reduction at cathode, oxidation at anode
Aimie Carlson
Nov 23, 2023

Design Focus

Energy output and portability
Reaction rates and product recovery
Huma Saeed
Nov 23, 2023
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Electrochemical Cell and Electrolytic Cell Definitions

Electrochemical Cell

A cell where spontaneous oxidation-reduction reactions produce electrical energy.
The electrochemical cell in a car battery starts the engine.
Huma Saeed
Nov 16, 2023

Electrolytic Cell

A device for decomposition reactions through electrolysis.
Water is split into hydrogen and oxygen using an electrolytic cell.
Huma Saeed
Nov 16, 2023

Electrochemical Cell

An arrangement of electrodes and electrolytes generating electricity.
Portable chargers contain electrochemical cells for on-the-go power.
Huma Saeed
Nov 16, 2023

Electrolytic Cell

An arrangement used in industrial processes like metal refining.
Copper refining employs an electrolytic cell for purification.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 16, 2023

Electrochemical Cell

A system where chemical reactions create a flow of electrons.
An electrochemical cell powers a flashlight.
Harlon Moss
Nov 16, 2023

Electrolytic Cell

A cell using electrical energy to drive non-spontaneous chemical reactions.
An electrolytic cell is used for the electroplating of jewelry.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 16, 2023

Electrochemical Cell

A device converting chemical energy into electrical energy through redox reactions.
A lithium-ion battery in a smartphone is an electrochemical cell.
Huma Saeed
Nov 16, 2023

Electrolytic Cell

A system applying external voltage to induce chemical reactions.
The production of chlorine gas involves an electrolytic cell.
Huma Saeed
Nov 16, 2023

Electrochemical Cell

A galvanic or voltaic cell used for energy generation.
Solar panels use electrochemical cells to convert sunlight into electricity.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 16, 2023

Electrolytic Cell

A setup where electrical current causes chemical changes.
Electrolytic cells are essential in the extraction of aluminum from bauxite.
Huma Saeed
Nov 16, 2023

FAQs

How does an electrolytic cell function?

By using an external power source to force electrons from the cathode to the anode, causing chemical changes.
Harlon Moss
Nov 23, 2023

Can an electrochemical cell recharge?

Some, like rechargeable batteries, can be recharged by reversing the chemical reactions.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 23, 2023

What is an electrolytic cell?

A cell that uses electrical energy to drive non-spontaneous chemical reactions.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 23, 2023

What is an electrochemical cell?

A device that converts chemical energy into electrical energy through redox reactions.
Huma Saeed
Nov 23, 2023

Is an electrolytic cell used for energy storage?

No, it's used for industrial processes like metal purification, not for energy storage.
Huma Saeed
Nov 23, 2023

What are common uses of electrochemical cells?

In batteries for devices like cars, watches, and electronics.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 23, 2023

How does an electrochemical cell work?

By spontaneous redox reactions that generate a flow of electrons from anode to cathode.
Huma Saeed
Nov 23, 2023

Do electrochemical cells need an external power source?

No, they generate power from chemical reactions.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 23, 2023

What happens at the anode of an electrochemical cell?

Oxidation reaction occurs at the anode.
Huma Saeed
Nov 23, 2023

Are electrolytic cells environmentally sustainable?

They can be, depending on the process and how the electricity is generated.
Huma Saeed
Nov 23, 2023

Can electrochemical cells be used in medical devices?

Yes, they are used in devices like pacemakers and hearing aids.
Huma Saeed
Nov 23, 2023

What are typical applications of electrolytic cells?

In electroplating, metal refining, and hydrogen production.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 23, 2023

Do electrolytic cells need an external power source?

Yes, they require an external power source to operate.
Harlon Moss
Nov 23, 2023

What occurs at the anode of an electrolytic cell?

Oxidation reaction takes place at the anode.
Janet White
Nov 23, 2023

What types of reactions occur in an electrochemical cell?

Spontaneous redox reactions.
Huma Saeed
Nov 23, 2023

Is the electrolytic process important in daily life?

Yes, it's crucial in many industrial processes that produce everyday items.
Janet White
Nov 23, 2023

Where does reduction happen in an electrolytic cell?

Reduction takes place at the cathode.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 23, 2023

Where does reduction occur in an electrochemical cell?

Reduction occurs at the cathode.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 23, 2023

What type of reactions are driven in an electrolytic cell?

Non-spontaneous chemical reactions are driven by external power.
Harlon Moss
Nov 23, 2023

Are electrochemical cells eco-friendly?

It depends on the type and usage, but many, like fuel cells, are environmentally friendly.
Huma Saeed
Nov 23, 2023
About Author
Written by
Huma Saeed
Huma is a renowned researcher acclaimed for her innovative work in Difference Wiki. Her dedication has led to key breakthroughs, establishing her prominence in academia. Her contributions continually inspire and guide her field.
Edited by
Sawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.

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