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Conduction of Electricity in Liquids

Conduction of Electricity in Liquids

We know metals are good conductors of heat and electricity. The electrons in the outermost shell contribute to this property. They are loosely held, due to which they cannot move from atom to atom, leading to the conduction of heat and electricity. Unlike metals that have a flow of electrons for the conduction, liquids do not conduct electricity due to sharing electrons due to their chemical bonding, which does not allow them to lose electrons. Instead, they conduct electricity by charges, spread into the water.
Certain ionic compounds dissolve in water by breaking their bonds. When their bond is broken, they yield multiple atoms with a charge on them. As a result, compounds dissociate into ionic compounds, losing ions into the water. This leads to charge imbalance creating positive or negative charges.


Ions are the charged particles that are present in ionic compounds. For example, sodium chloride contains negative ions and positive sodium ions. When an electric current is passed through a solution, ionic substances break down into simpler substances. Ions must flow freely for the working of electrolysis. Positively charged ions move towards the negative electrode, whereas negative charge ions move towards the positive electrode during an electrolysis process. Negative charge ions lose electrons, whereas positively charged ions gain electrons.

Conduction of electricity in water

How does the conduction of electricity in water take place? Due to the passage of electric current, the electrolysis of water involves the decomposition of water into hydrogen and oxygen gas. The two electrodes are made up of inert material and connected with an external power supply. Water cannot conduct electricity without the addition of electrolytes. Electrolyte induces ions into the water, thus, increasing their conduction property. The water molecule now becomes,
H2O = 2H+ + OH–

Oxygen and hydrogen molecules are oppositely charged, due to which they are attracted to opposite electrodes. As a result, the negatively charged electrodes gain an electron to convert into hydrogen gas from positively charged hydrogen ions at the cathode.

We might be wondering how electricity conduction takes place in metals that are in a molten state? Well, the compounds in molten state split into single components and accumulate at electrodes. Then, as a result of the chemical reaction, gases are released that dissipate in the air.

Reduction at cathode

2 H2O →2H+ (g) + 2 OH–
With the addition of electrons, the above equation becomes,
2 H+ (aq) + 2e− → H2 (g)
The positively charged ions in the solution travel towards the anode by giving up their electrons and transforming into neutral elements. For example, the hydroxide ion turns into a neutral oxygen molecule by giving up its electron at the anode.

Oxidation at anode

4 H2O → 4 OH–(aq) + 4 H+
The above equation breaks into,
4 OH− (aq) → O2 (g) + 2 H2O (l) + 4 e

The electrons present at the anode complete the circuit by making up for the electrons taken by hydrogen ions. For every two molecules of hydrogen created at the cathode, one oxygen molecule is produced at the anode. The volume of oxygen is half that of the hydrogen gas, assuming equal pressure and temperature for both the gases. The number of electrons produced in water consists four times the generated oxygen molecule and twice that of the hydrogen molecule.

Applications of conduction of electricity in liquids

1. Generation of hydrogen fuel or using fuel cells for the production of electric power.
2. Production of caustic soda from the concentrated saline solution.
3. One of the most crucial electrolysis uses is to prepare metals like calcium, sodium, aluminium, and other heavy metals. During the electrolysis of molten compounds, heavy metals are precipitated at electrodes present in the solution. The metal is collected from these electrodes and is used for different industrial purposes.
4. Manufacturing industries use electrolysis to coat one metal over the other. The method to coat one metal over the other is known as electroplating. The object to be coated is connected at the cathode, while the metal that has to be coated is used at the anode. The electrolyte is the soluble compound of metal to be coated.

Facts about conduction of electricity

1. Beauty experts use electrolyte soaps to remove unwanted hair from the body.
2. Jewellers use gold to coat over metals when they need to reduce the quantity of pure gold.
3. Stainless steel and utensils are coated with the help of electrolysis.
4. Silver utensils are also coated with electrolysis on aluminium metal at various places.
5. While silver and copper are the best conductors of electricity as solids, sodium chloride solution is the best conductor of electricity as a liquid.

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