We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is an Electrolytic Process?

By Jeremy Laukkonen
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
About Mechanics is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At About Mechanics, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The electrolytic process is typically used to refine substances such as metals or to extract materials from a solution. There are three main components that are required for any electrolytic process, which are electricity, a substance that contains free ions, and two objects to act as electrodes. The presence of an electrical current flowing through the electrolyte can cause a chemical reaction that would not otherwise occur spontaneously. In the refining of metals, atoms from an impure substance are caused to transfer to a pure cathode due to the flow of electricity. The electrolytic process can also be used to extract substances, such as refining hydrogen from water.

In order to use electrolysis to refine metal, both electrodes will typically be made of that material. An impure ore or alloy can be used for the anode, and the cathode is made from the pure form. The electrolyte will also contain the same metal in the form of free ions that are held in solution. When an electrical current is applied to the electrodes, it can flow between them through the electrolyte. This will tend to cause ions from the solution to attach to the corresponding electrode, depending on whether they are positively or negatively charged, resulting in pure metal atoms gathering on the cathode.

The electrolytic process can also be used to plate one metal with another or for decorative etching. These uses of the process are very similar to the refining method, though coating one metal with another is referred to as electroplating. The use of the electrolytic process for etching typically uses acrylics and other substances to coat the metal, and is sometimes referred to as electroetching.

Gases, such as hydrogen, can also be refined using the electrolytic process. Water is chemically composed of hydrogen and oxygen, and an electrical current can be used to split it into these components. The anode and cathode are each made of the same substance, typically stainless steel or another inert metal.

When current is applied to electrodes submerged in water, it will tend to decay into oxygen near the anode and hydrogen at the cathode. By placing collection vessels at the appropriate electrode, pure oxygen or hydrogen can be gathered. Since pure water tends to undergo a limited amount of self-ionization, the presence of free ions can be low and the process tends to progress slowly. Due to this, hydrogen is not often collected with the electrolytic process on an industrial scale.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon271026 — On May 24, 2012

The electrolytic process is really important. If it didn't exist, refining of metals and the extraction of materials from a solution would not be possible.

About Mechanics, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

About Mechanics, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.