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What is Electrochemical Cell?

Meaning and Definition of Electrochemical Cell

An electrochemical cell is a simple device capable of supplying an electrical current. One or more electrochemical cells that work together to supply current constitute a battery.

The chemical reaction of an electric cell is classified as “oxidation reduction”.  Electrons are transferred, oxidizing one chemical species by removing electrons, while reducing another by adding electrons. The reaction in an electrochemical cell can sometimes be obviously chemical, as in the copper-zinc battery; In other cases, like the solar cell, it may be less obvious.

Electrochemical cells can find a reverse application, such as in the electroplating process, whereby an external voltage is applied that transfers electrons in the reverse direction, resulting in metal deposition on substrates. Among the most common deposits are nickel, solder, chrome, copper, silver and gold.

 Interestingly, solar cells can have their action reversed. Instead of light falling on their surfaces to produce electricity, current can be introduced which results in light being emitted, albeit at a different frequency, i.e. infrared. 

This is the principle of the light emitting diode or LED.

One form of cell under intense investigation is the fuel cell. This is mainly due to the need for an alternative fuel to replace coal and oil. The fuel cell of greatest interest uses hydrogen as fuel. Burning hydrogen into oxygen produces pure water, instead of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. 

A remaining difficulty is finding the correct electrolyte to allow the process to be successful.

There are other more complex types of fuel cells. These include molten carbonate fuel cell (MCFC), phosphoric acid fuel cell (PAFC), proton exchange memory fuel cell (PEM), and solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC). . 

At the current stage of development, they all have serious shortcomings. Some require a high degree of fuel purity, others require expensive platinum catalysis, and one requires very high temperatures to operate. They all use hydrogen gas as their basic fuel.

In 1971, US Patent No. 3,591,860 was issued for a nuclear industrial device called an electric gamma cell. This invention was designed to produce a high output voltage directly from nuclear radiation. You can do this without going through a heat cycle first. 

Since it can even produce electricity directly from radioactive isotopes, it is considered a safe alternative energy source. Unfortunately, the invention of the cell phone was misattributed by some to the patent holder of the gamma cellular cell.

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