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Electrolytes


There are many different electrolytes that CAN work in an electrolysis process, but here are the most common:


  • KOH- Potassium Hydroxide- Used in soap making
  • NaOH- Sodium Hydroxide- Lye- Used to open drains!
  • NaCI- Sodium chloride- Table Salt- Raises blood pressure
  • NaHCO- Baking Soda- Makes bubbles and poisonous gas
  • H2SO4- Sulfuric acid- Car battery acid- Makes bad gases and burns!
  • There are many other electrolytes in the acid, base and salt families, but in general these above are the main ones used in most Hydrogen electrolyzers.




    Electrolysis involves the passage of an electric current through, in general, an ionic substance that is either molten or dissolved in a suitable solvent, resulting in chemical reactions at the electrodes. The negative electrode is called the cathode, and the positive electrode is the anode. [1] To be useful for elctrolysis, the electrodes need to be able to conduct electricity, and metal electrodes are generally used. Graphite electrodes and semiconductor electrodes are also used. An ionic compound (or covalently bonded in the case of acids) is dissolved with an appropriate solvent, or melted by heat, so that its ions are available in the liquid. An electrical current is applied between a pair of inert electrodes immersed in the liquid. Each electrode attracts ions that are of the opposite charge. Therefore, positively-charged ions (called cations) move toward the cathode, whereas negatively-charged ions (termed anions) move toward the anode. The energy required to separate the ions, and cause them to gather at the respective electrodes, is provided by an electrical power supply. At the probes, electrons are absorbed or released by the ions, forming a collection of the desired element or compound.

    Electrolytes commonly exist as solutions of acids, bases or salts. Furthermore, some gases may act as electrolytes under conditions of high temperature or low pressure. Electrolyte solutions can also result from the dissolution of some biological (e.g. DNA, polypeptides) and synthetic polymers (e.g. polystyrene sulfonate), termed polyelectrolytes, which contain multiple charged moieties.

    Electrolyte solutions are normally formed when a salt is placed into a solvent such as water and the individual components dissociate due to the thermodynamic interactions between solvent and solute molecules, in a process called solvation. For example, when table salt, NaCl, is placed in water, the following occurs:

    NaCl(s) → Na+ + Cl

    In simple terms, the electrolyte is a material that dissolves in water to give a solution that conducts an electric current.

    An electrolyte in a solution may be described as concentrated if it has a high concentration of ions, or dilute if it has a low concentration. If a high proportion of the solute dissociates to form free ions, the electrolyte is strong; if most of the solute does not dissociate, the electrolyte is weak. The properties of electrolytes may be exploited using electrolysis to extract constituent elements and compounds contained within the solution.

    When electrodes are placed in an electrolyte and a voltage is applied, the electrolyte will conduct electricity. Lone electrons normally cannot pass through the electrolyte; instead, a chemical reaction occurs at the cathode consuming electrons from the cathode, and another reaction occurs at the anode producing electrons to be taken up by the anode. As a result, a negative charge cloud develops in the electrolyte around the cathode, and a positive charge develops around the anode. The ions in the electrolyte move to neutralize these charges so that the reactions can continue and the electrons can keep flowing.

    For example, in a solution of ordinary salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) in water, the cathode reaction will be

    2H2O + 2e → 2OH + H2

    and hydrogen gas will bubble up; the anode reaction is

    2H2O → O2 + 4H+ + 4e

    and oxygen gas will be liberated. The positively charged sodium ions Na+ will move toward the cathode neutralizing the negative charge of OH there, and the negatively charged chlorine ions Cl will move towards the anode neutralizing the positive charge of H+ there. Without the ions from the electrolyte, the charges around the electrode would slow down continued electron flow; diffusion of H+ and OH through water to the other electrode takes longer than movement of the much more prevalent salt ions.

    In other systems, the electrode reactions can involve the metals of the electrodes as well as the ions of the electrolyte.

    One important use of electrolysis of water is to produce hydrogen.

    2H2O(l) → 2H2(g) + O2(g)

    This has been suggested as a way of shifting society toward using hydrogen as an energy carrier for powering electric motors and internal combustion engines. (See hydrogen economy.)

    Electrolysis of water can be observed by passing direct current from a battery or other DC power supply through a cup of water (in practice a saltwater solution increases the reaction intensity making it easier to observe). Using platinum electrodes, hydrogen gas will be seen to bubble up at the cathode, and oxygen will bubble at the anode. If other metals are used as the anode, there is a chance that the oxygen will react with the anode instead of being released as a gas. For example, using iron electrodes in a sodium chloride solution electrolyte, iron oxide will be produced at the anode, which will react to form iron hydroxide. When producing large quantities of hydrogen, this can significantly contaminate the electrolytic cell - which is why iron is not used for commercial electrolysis.

    The energy efficiency of water electrolysis varies widely. The efficiency is a measure of what fraction of electrical energy used is actually contained within the hydrogen. Some of the electrical energy is converted to heat, a useless by-product. Some reports quote efficiencies between 50% and 70%[1] This efficiency is based on the Lower Heating Value of Hydrogen. The Lower Heating Value of Hydrogen is thermal energy released when hydrogen is combusted. This does not represent the total amount of energy within the hydrogen, hence the efficiency is lower than a more strict definition. Other reports quote the theoretical maximum efficiency of electrolysis as being between 80% and 94%.[2]. The theoretical maximum considers the total amount of energy absorbed by both the hydrogen and oxygen. These values refer only to the efficiency of converting electrical energy into hydrogen's chemical energy. The energy lost in generating the electricity is not included. For instance, when considering a power plant that converts the heat of nuclear reactions into hydrogen via electrolysis, the total efficiency is more like 25%40%.[3]

    About four percent of hydrogen gas produced worldwide is created by electrolysis, and normally used onsite. Hydrogen is used for the creation of ammonia for fertilizer via the Haber process, and converting heavy petroleum sources to lighter fractions via hydrocracking.

    First law of electrolysis

    In 1832, Michael Faraday reported that the quantity of elements separated by passing an electrical current through a molten or dissolved salt is proportional to the quantity of electric charge passed through the circuit. This became the basis of the first law of electrolysis:

    m = k \cdot q

    Second law of electrolysis

    Faraday also discovered that the mass of the resulting separated elements is directly proportional to the atomic masses of the elements when an appropriate integral divisor is applied. This provided strong evidence that discrete particles of matter exist as parts of the atoms of elements.




    Baking Soda (NaHCO#) is NOT an acceptable Electrolyte!

    First, you would have to add 84 grams of baking soda (NaHCO3) to
    obtain the same amount of sodium as you would for 40 grams of Sodium
    Hydroxide (NaOH).

    This is relevant because it is the Sodium that is driving the
    electrolysis process.

    Secondly, on electrolysis of NaHCO3, the Na+ ion will rush to the
    cathode and you will get:-

    2Na+ + 2e- + 2H2O -----> 2NaOH + H2

    and

    HCO3- + H2O -------> H2CO3 + OH-

    Also

    H2CO3 --------> H2O + CO2

    Also

    CO2 + 2H+ + 2e- -----> CO + H2O

    Also

    CO + 2H+ + 2e- ------> C + H2O

    Conclusion: On adding NaHCO3 a whole range of chemical processes can
    take place but due to the nature of alkali metals, the one sure
    conclusion is that Hydroxides will be formed!

    I believe Bob has stressed this on a number of occasions and so people
    should not be deceived into thinking that if you make a completely
    safe electrolytic solution using NaHCO3 or other carbonates that you
    end up with a completely safe electrolytic solution after use!!

    If one takes pH readings of the electrolytic solution over time, one
    can access the progress of the carbonate solution (pH will increase
    with increasing Alkalinity), but my advice is play it safe, where PPE.
     But when someone intentionally publishes that using baking
    soda is safe and does not put out carbon monoxide, then I have a BIG
    problem with that. I have done the tests, and I have had the gas
    analyzed. Sure, there is hydrogen, and sure, there is some CO2, but
    there is also enough CO to be lethal. There is NO oxygen produced
    until ALL of the carbon has been reacted from solution.

    The argument that the gas is to be burned and not inhaled does not fly with me! How many of these people that use baking soda are
    actually burning the gas when they are doing their experiments? Most
    are venting the gas into the air in the room they are in, and even
    those that DO burn the gas in an engine often-times have leaks in
    their systems.
    I must confess that although I posted a few of the reactions possible
    in an electrolytic solution using this substance, I had not realized
    how favorable the reaction to CO was. If my calculations are correct,
    then a concentration of just 0.0667 % in the atmosphere you are
    breathing is enough to bind with 50 % of your Hemoglobin, this is a
    life threatening situation!!!

    For non chemistry people who wish to get a grasp of the toxicity of
    Carbon Monoxide, a good rule of thumb is, when you think Carbon
    Monoxide, think Cyanide!



    Some of the above information is from WIKIPEDIA and the other is from postings on the Yahoo "Hydroxy" website.


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