How Does Electrolysis of Water Work?


Quick Answer

In the process of electrolysis, an electric current is passed between two electrodes in a body of water. This electric current separates the bond of hydrogen and oxygen in the water, turning them into their gaseous states.

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How Does Electrolysis of Water Work?
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Full Answer

Because water is a bad conductor, electrons cannot flow freely between the two electrodes and complete the circuit. Instead, water molecules near the negative electrode separate a proton from themselves. This proton receives an electron from the electrode, becoming a hydrogen atom. Meanwhile, the water molecule, which is negatively charged due to losing a proton, is pulled to the positive electrode. The electrode takes an electron from the molecule, completing the flow of electricity between the two electrodes. This molecule then recombines with other molecules to form oxygen and water.

Water first developed on Earth when hydrogen and oxygen spontaneously reacted and bonded together. This process created water, but it also created energy as a by-product. Electrolysis is the reverse of this reaction, using energy in an electric form to separate the two components of water.

The electrolysis of water is used on the International Space Station to generate oxygen. It is a method used to manufacture hydrogen, which is used in a variety of industrial applications.

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