Chemical reactions are a part of our daily life. Some occur in nature by natural phenomena while some are man made. Electrolysis is one such man made chemical process to obtain required and desired results. To purify a metal to its purest form possible or to deposit one metal over the other, we use electrolysis.

Electrolysis is a process carried out in an electrolytic cell. It consists of two electrodes, one positively charged while the other is negatively charged electrode. The two electrodes are inserted in a solution that contains ions, this solution is called the electrolyte. And direct current is passed through this, the electrons enter the negatively charged cathode, getting reduced. While the ions also travel to the anode and give up electrons to get oxidized. Electrolysis is widely  used in the metallurgical processes. For example, in extraction and purification of metals from ores.


Electrolysis is when ionic substances are broken down by passing of electricity through. It is used in the extraction and also purification of metals.

We all know that electricity is the flow of electrons. So, in the process of electrolysis, the positive ions move to the negatively charged electrode. Since they receive electrons they are reduced. While the negatively charged ions move to the positively charged electrode, it loses electrons and is said to be oxidized.

What is electrolysis ?

For electrolysis to take place, it must contain ions. Pure water is not a good conductor as it does not have free ions. But seawater on the other hand is electrolyzed as it contains many positive sodiums and negatively charged chlorine ions.

The equipment required for electrolysis is a DC, two electrodes and an electrolyte. The dc sources two poles are attached to the two electrodes, which are then immersed in an electrolyte.

Some important definitions to remember-

  • Anode- the anode is where the electrons move from the electrolyte to the dc source
  • Cathode- the cathode is where the electrons move from the dc source to the electrolyte
  • Electrolyte- any substance that when dissolved in water has to conduct electricity
  • Electrolytic cell- when there is a change in chemical composition due to passage of electricity
  • Electroplating- it is the process of depositing one metal on the surface of another
  • Ion- is the practice that carries an electric charge

The uses of electrolysis are-

  • It helps us extract metals from their ores
  • It helps us purify certain metals like copper and zinc and give us a purer form of them
  • It is used in the manufacture of chlorine

Electrolysis is used to electroplate things such as the pans to make them non-stick or steel to make them rust-proof.

 It is also used to plate superior metals over inferior ones to make them look more attractive. For example, gold or silver is plated over iron or steel to make it look rich.

The commercial applications of electrolysis are-

Preparing elements

Electrolysis is used to break down very stable compounds. Aluminum is spread from its oreo with the help of electrolysis which can not be done by using any other process.

Refining of metals

Electrolysis can be used in refining metals to obtain their purest forms. Copper is one such example, we use electrolysis to obtain pure copper. Electrolysis is the easiest way to obtain the purest forms of metals (up to 99.9999 percent).


Electroplating is the process of coating one metal over the other metal by electrolysis. We can coat an inferior metal over a superior metal like gold or silver. It is also used to make the surfaces of some metals rust or dust-free.


Electrolysis is the process of breaking down metals by the passage of currents. It has very high commercial applications and is used in a variety of industries from purifying metals to gold plating to making stainless steel.