Electrolysis of Sodium Chloride - Electrochemistry | Summary and Q&A

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December 18, 2017
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Electrolysis of Sodium Chloride - Electrochemistry

TL;DR

Electrolysis of a sodium chloride solution produces chlorine gas and hydrogen gas at the anode and cathode, respectively.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What are the anode and cathode in the electrolysis setup?

The anode is the graphite electrode attached to the positive terminal of the battery, and the cathode is the graphite electrode attached to the negative terminal.

Q: What reactions occur at the anode and cathode during electrolysis?

At the anode, chloride can be oxidized to chlorine gas, while at the cathode, hydrogen ions can be reduced to hydrogen gas.

Q: Why does chlorine gas form at the anode instead of water oxidation?

Chlorine gas forms because the oxidation potential of chloride is lower than that of water. The high cell potential for the oxidation of water makes it difficult to generate hydrogen peroxide, which is an intermediate in the reaction.

Q: How does the reaction change in a basic solution?

In a basic solution, chloride can still be oxidized to chlorine gas, but the oxidation of hydroxide ions to oxygen gas becomes more favorable at the anode. The reduction of water to hydrogen gas is easier at the cathode.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The electrolysis setup consists of two graphite electrodes in an aqueous solution of sodium chloride.

  • Cations like sodium and hydrogen ions flow towards the cathode, while anions like chloride flow towards the anode.

  • At the anode, chloride can be oxidized to chlorine gas, while at the cathode, hydrogen ions can be reduced to hydrogen gas.

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