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Rossita Radzak SASER

ELECTROLYSIS OF AQUEOUS SOLUTIONS

Factors that affect the electrolysis of an aqueous solution:

(a) Position of ions in the electrochemical series (ECS).


(b) Concentration of ions / anion in the solution / electrolytes.
(c) Type of electrodes used in the electrolysis.

a. Position of ions in the electrochemical series (ES).

Cation
K+
Na+
Ca2+
Mg2+
Al3+
Zn2+
Fe2+
Sn2+
Pb2+
H+
Cu2+
Ag+

Anion
FSO42NO3ClBrIOHEase of
discharge
increases

Electrochemistry
Series

Rossita Radzak SASER

Hydrogen gas

Oxygen gas

Potassium nitrate
solution,
0.5 mol dm-3

Carbon electrodes

Figure 2 Electrolysis of potassium nitrate solution

KNO3 solution consists of K+ , H+, NO3- and OH-

Cathode:
K+ and H+

Anode:
NO3- and OH-

H+ is selected for discharged as it is


lower than K+ in ECS.

OH- is selected for discharged as it is


lower than NO3 - in ECS.

b. Concentration of ions in the solution / electrolytes.


2H+ + 2e H2
Hydrogen gas is collected at the
cathode. Hydrogen gas 2 volume.

4OH- 2H2O + O2 + 4e
Oxygen gas is collected at the anode.
Oxygen gas 1 volume.

Rossita Radzak SASER


(b) Concentration of ions in the solution / electrolytes.

Sodium chloride
solution, 1.0 mol dm-3

Carbon
electrodes

Figure 3 Electrolysis of sodium chloride solution

From sodium chloride


From water

Na+, ClH+ , OH-

CATHODE
Na+ , H+

ANODE:
Cl- , OH-

Both types of cations are attracted to the


cathode, H+ ions are selected for discharged
as they are lower in the ECS.

Both anions are attracted to the anode,


Chloride ions are discharged because the
concentration of Cl- ions are higher than of
OH- ions.

2H+ + 2e H2 (g)
Gas bubbles are formed. When a lighted
wooden splinter is place near the mouth of
the test tube, a `pop` sound is produced.
Hydrogen gas is evolved.

2Cl- Cl2 (g) + 2e


Bubbles pungent yellowish-green gas is
produced. The gas changed the damp blue
litmus paper to red and bleached it. Chlorine
gas is formed.

Solution becomes alkaline by presence of sodium hydroxide.


NaOH(aq)

Rossita Radzak SASER


(c) Type of electrodes used in the electrolysis.

Copper electrodes

Copper (II)
sulphate solution
0.5 mol dm-3
Figure 4 Electrolysis of copper (II) sulphate solution using copper electrodes

From copper (II) sulphate


From water

CATHODE:

Cu2+ , SO42H+ , OH-

ANODE:

Cu2+ ions and H+ ions move to the


cathode. Cu2+ ion which is at a lower
position than H+ ion in the ECS is
selected to be discharged.

OH- ions and SO42- ions move to the anode.


Copper electrode dissolves /copper atom
ionizes and releases 2 electrons to form
Cu2+ ions.

Cu2+ (aq) + 2e Cu (s)


Brown deposit/ solid is formed. The mass
of the cathode increases and the cathode
becomes thicker.

Cu Cu2+ + 2e
The mass of the anode decreases and the
anode becomes thinner.

The colour intensity of blue solution dose not change because the concentration of Cu2+ ions
in the solution remains unchanged. This is because the rate of formation of copper (II) ions,
at the anode is the same as the rate of discharge of copper (II) ions, at the cathode.