What is anode and cathode?

Anode and Cathode Explained


The anode is the electrode in a battery or an electrical device through which conventional current flows in from outside the device. In terms of chemistry, it is the site where oxidation occurs. In a discharging battery or a galvanic cell, the anode is the negative terminal due to the flow of electrons being out of the battery. However, in a recharging battery, or an electrolytic cell, the anode is positive as it is the site that provides electrons to the external circuit. During the operation of a battery, the anode releases electrons to the external circuit and ions to the electrolyte, thereby undergoing oxidation.


The cathode is the electrode from which electrons flow out from the battery or electrical device into the external circuit. Cathodes are associated with reduction, meaning they are where the reduction reactions occur within the battery or cell. In a discharging battery or a galvanic cell, the cathode is the positive terminal. However, in a recharging battery or an electrolytic cell, the cathode becomes negative, attracting positive ions from the electrolyte to receive electrons and undergo reduction. The cathode, essentially, gains electrons and neutralizes the positive charge of the ions that reach it through the electrolyte.


In summary, the key difference between an anode and a cathode depends on the type of device and its operational state (i.e., charging or discharging). The anode is the terminal where oxidation occurs and from which electrons exit a device, while the cathode is where reduction occurs and electrons enter a device. Understanding these components is crucial for the operation of batteries and various electrical devices.

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