Why It Matters: Electrochemistry

Outline of Electrochemistry

  • Review of Redox Chemistry
  • Galvanic Cells
  • Electrode and Cell Potentials
  • Potential, Free Energy, and Equilibrium
  • Batteries and Fuel Cells
  • Corrosion
  • Electrolysis
A photograph is shown of a parked car plugged into a charging station in a paved parking area. The parking area is situated in a wooded area. People are walking in the background in the park-like atmosphere.

Figure 1. Electric vehicles contain batteries that can be recharged, thereby using electric energy to bring about a chemical change and vice versa. (credit: modification of work by Robert Couse-Baker)

Another chapter in this text introduced the chemistry of reduction-oxidation (redox) reactions. This important reaction class is defined by changes in oxidation states for one or more reactant elements, and it includes a subset of reactions involving the transfer of electrons between reactant species. Around the turn of the nineteenth century, chemists began exploring ways these electrons could be transferred indirectly via an external circuit rather than directly via intimate contact of redox reactants. In the two centuries since, the field of electrochemistry has evolved to yield significant insights on the fundamental aspects of redox chemistry as well as a wealth of technologies ranging from industrial-scale metallurgical processes to robust, rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles (Figure 1). In this module, the essential concepts of electrochemistry will be addressed.