Electrolytic Conductance : Current through Electrolytes

We know that metals are good conductors of electricity as they have a pool of free electrons that flow under the influence of a potential gradient and cause the electric current. But what do we mean by electrolytic conductance?

To understand electrolytic conductance, let us first understand electrolytes. Electrolytes are those substances that dissolve in a solvent and dissociate into charged ions; the positive ions are known as cations, and the negative ions are called anions.

In the case of metals, the conduction is due to the flow of charge that is electrons. In the electrolytic solution, the charged particles present are the ions and hence an electrolytic solution is capable of conducting electric current.

Conductors and Insulators

Conductors are materials that allow free flow of electrons from one particle to another. These are elements which have electric charges in the form of electrons that are comparatively free to move inside the material. Insulators are materials that hinder the free flow of electrons from one particle of the element to another. If we transfer some amount of charge to such an element at any point, the charge remains at the initial location and does not get distributed across the surface.

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Electrolytic Conductors

The ability of electrolytic solutions to allow the passage of electric current through them is known as the electrolytic conductance. This ability is rendered by ions that are present in the solution due to the dissociation of the electrolyte. The electrolytes can conduct electricity only in the molten or aqueous state and not in any solid form.

Some of the typical examples of electrolytes that conduct electricity either in molten form or aqueous state are KNO3, NaCl, KCl etc. There are various parameters such as the concentration of ions and the type of electrolyte that affect the conductivity of electrolytes.

Factors affecting Electrolytic Conductance

1. Concentration of ions

The sole reason for the conductivity of electrolytes is the ions present in them. The conductivity of electrolytes increases with increase in the concentration of ions as there will be more charge carriers if the concentration of ions is more and hence the conductivity of electrolytes will be high.

2. Nature of electrolyte

Electrolytic conduction is significantly affected by the nature of electrolytes. The degree of dissociation of electrolytes determines the concentration of ions in the solution and hence the conductivity of electrolytes. Substances such as CH3COOH, with a small degree of separation, will have less number of ions in the solution and hence their conductivity will also below, and these are called weak electrolytes. Strong electrolytes such as KNO3 have a high degree of dissociation and hence their solutions have a high concentration of ions and so they are good electrolytic conductance.

3. Temperature

Temperature affects the degree to which an electrolyte gets dissolved in solution. It has been seen that higher temperature enhances the solubility of electrolytes and hence the concentration of ions which results in increased electrolytic conduction.

The conductivity of electrolytes is of great importance, their studies have been the base for the development of many devices such as batteries and other devices.

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