10 Differences Between galvanic cells and electrolytic cells

What is a galvanic cell?

A galvanic cell is an electrochemical cell that converts chemical energy into electrical energy. It consists of two half-cells, each containing an electrode and an electrolyte solution. The electrodes are connected by a wire, allowing the flow of electrons from the anode to the cathode, creating an electric current.

Examples of galvanic cells

  • The common zinc-carbon dry cell used in flashlights and remote controls.
  • The lead-acid battery used in automobiles.
  • The Daniell cell, which is made up of a copper electrode and a zinc electrode.

Uses of galvanic cells

Galvanic cells are widely used in various applications, such as:

  • Powering portable electronic devices like smartphones and laptops.
  • Providing backup power in uninterruptible power supplies (UPS).
  • Driving electric vehicles.
  • Generating electricity from renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines.

What is an electrolytic cell?

An electrolytic cell is an electrochemical cell that uses electrical energy to drive a non-spontaneous chemical reaction. It consists of two electrodes immersed in an electrolyte solution. When an external electric current is applied, positive ions migrate towards the cathode, and negative ions migrate towards the anode.

Examples of electrolytic cells

  • The electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen and oxygen gases.
  • The electroplating process used to coat a metal object with a layer of another metal.
  • The industrial production of chlorine and sodium hydroxide through the electrolysis of brine.

Uses of electrolytic cells

Electrolytic cells have various industrial and scientific applications:

  • Electrorefining of metals like copper and aluminum.
  • Electrowinning of metals from their ores.
  • Production of chemical compounds like chlorine, sodium hydroxide, and aluminum oxide.
  • Electroplating of objects to enhance their appearance or provide corrosion resistance.

Differences between galvanic cells and electrolytic cells:

Difference Area Galvanic Cells Electrolytic Cells
Energy Conversion Converts chemical energy into electrical energy Converts electrical energy into chemical energy
Cell Voltage Positive (spontaneous reaction) Negative (non-spontaneous reaction)
Direction of Electron Flow Anode (negative electrode) to Cathode (positive electrode) Cathode (negative electrode) to Anode (positive electrode)
Electrolyte Concentration Concentration decreases over time Concentration remains constant
Electrode Mass Anode mass decreases, cathode mass increases Anode mass increases, cathode mass decreases
Energy Source Spontaneous redox reaction External electrical power source
Reaction Type Spontaneous Non-spontaneous
Purpose Generate electricity Drive non-spontaneous reactions
Examples Zinc-carbon dry cell, lead-acid battery Electrolysis of water, electroplating
Applications Powering electronic devices, electric vehicles Chemical production, metal refining


In summary, galvanic cells convert chemical energy into electrical energy through spontaneous redox reactions, while electrolytic cells use electrical energy to drive non-spontaneous redox reactions. Galvanic cells have a positive cell voltage, and electrons flow from the anode to the cathode. On the other hand, electrolytic cells have a negative cell voltage, and electron flow is reversed. The purpose and applications of these cells differ significantly.

People Also Ask:

1. What is the main difference between galvanic cells and electrolytic cells?
The main difference is that galvanic cells convert chemical energy into electrical energy, while electrolytic cells use electrical energy to drive non-spontaneous chemical reactions.

2. Can galvanic cells be used for electrolysis?
No, galvanic cells cannot be used for electrolysis as they have a spontaneous chemical reaction that generates electrical energy.

3. Do galvanic cells require an external power source?
No, galvanic cells do not require an external power source as they generate electrical energy from the chemical reaction itself.

4. What are some common applications of galvanic cells?
Galvanic cells are commonly used in portable electronic devices, automotive batteries, and renewable energy systems like solar panels and wind turbines.

5. How are electrolytic cells used in industrial processes?
Electrolytic cells are used for electroplating, electrorefining of metals, and production of chemicals like chlorine and sodium hydroxide.

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