Electrolytic solutions are good liquid conductors of electricity because the solute, an electrolyte, is a substance that easily disassociates into its component ions when it is in an aqueous solution. Electrolyte substances can be grouped into three generalized classes: strong acids, strong bases and soluble salts. An aqueous solution of hydrochloric acid is an example of an electrolytic solution that is an excellent liquid conductor of electricity.
Electrolytes can also be grouped into strong and weak categories. Strong electrolytes will disassociate completely into their component ions when in an aqueous solution. Weak electrolytes do not disassociate completely, and as a result, their aqueous solutions do not conduct electricity well. Almost all of the inorganic salts, such as sodium chloride, are strong electrolytes. The strong bases also disassociate completely in water and produce hydroxide ions. Weak acids, such as acetic acid and citric acid, do not disassociate completely in water, and their solutions are not good conductors. Similarly, the weak bases do not create solutions well-suited to conducting electricity.
In addition to the industrial uses of electrolytic solutions, electrolytes play a vital role in the higher life forms by helping to regulate the osmotic differences between cellular interiors and the extracellular environment. Nerves and muscles also function by their reactions to electrolytic activity, and insufficient amounts of electrolytes within the human body can result in weakness or cause muscle contractions. In cases of extreme electrolyte deficiencies, such as the result of dehydration, neurological complications could occur, and possibly become a pressing health issue.