Anode

Anode

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Anode'
Start a new discussion about 'Anode'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
An anode is an electrode
Electrode
An electrode is an electrical conductor used to make contact with a nonmetallic part of a circuit...

 through which electric current
Electric current
Electric current is a flow of electric charge through a medium.This charge is typically carried by moving electrons in a conductor such as wire...

 flows into a polarized electrical device. Mnemonic
Mnemonic
A mnemonic , or mnemonic device, is any learning technique that aids memory. To improve long term memory, mnemonic systems are used to make memorization easier. Commonly encountered mnemonics are often verbal, such as a very short poem or a special word used to help a person remember something,...

: ACID (Anode Current Into Device). (The direction of electric current is, by convention, opposite to the direction of electron flow)

A widespread misconception is that anode polarity
Electrical polarity
Electrical polarity is present in every electrical circuit. Electrons flow from the negative pole to the positive pole. In a direct current circuit, one pole is always negative, the other pole is always positive and the electrons flow in one direction only...

 is always positive (+). This is often incorrectly inferred from the correct fact that in all electrochemical devices negatively charged anions move towards the anode (hence their name) and/or positively charged cations move away from it. In fact anode polarity depends on the device type, and sometimes even in which mode it operates, as per the above electric current direction-based universal definition. Consequently, as can be seen from the following examples, in a device which consumes power the anode is positive, and in a device which provides power the anode is negative:
  • In a discharging battery or galvanic cell
    Galvanic cell
    A Galvanic cell, or Voltaic cell, named after Luigi Galvani, or Alessandro Volta respectively, is an electrochemical cell that derives electrical energy from spontaneous redox reaction taking place within the cell...

     (diagram at right) the anode is the negative terminal since that is where the current flows into the device (see drawing). This inward current is carried externally by electrons moving outwards, negative charge moving one way constituting positive current flowing the other way. It is continued internally by positive ions flowing into the electrolyte
    Electrolyte
    In chemistry, an electrolyte is any substance containing free ions that make the substance electrically conductive. The most typical electrolyte is an ionic solution, but molten electrolytes and solid electrolytes are also possible....

     from the anode, i.e., away (surprisingly) from the more negative electrode and towards the more positive one (chemical energy is responsible for this "uphill" motion).
  • In a recharging battery, or an electrolytic cell
    Electrolytic cell
    An electrolytic cell decomposes chemical compounds by means of electrical energy, in a process called electrolysis; the Greek word lysis means to break up. The result is that the chemical energy is increased...

    , the anode is the positive terminal, which receives current from an external generator. The current through a recharging battery is opposite to the direction of current during discharge; In other words, the electrode which was the cathode during battery discharge becomes the anode while the battery is recharging.
  • In a diode
    Diode
    In electronics, a diode is a type of two-terminal electronic component with a nonlinear current–voltage characteristic. A semiconductor diode, the most common type today, is a crystalline piece of semiconductor material connected to two electrical terminals...

    , it is the positive terminal at the tail of the arrow symbol, where current flows into the device. Note electrode naming for diodes is always based on the direction of the forward current (that of the arrow, in which the current flows "most easily"), even for types such as Zener diode
    Zener diode
    A Zener diode is a special kind of diode which allows current to flow in the forward direction in the same manner as an ideal diode, but will also permit it to flow in the reverse direction when the voltage is above a certain value known as the breakdown voltage, "Zener knee voltage" or "Zener...

    s or solar cells where the current of interest is the reverse current.
  • In a cathode ray tube
    Cathode ray tube
    The cathode ray tube is a vacuum tube containing an electron gun and a fluorescent screen used to view images. It has a means to accelerate and deflect the electron beam onto the fluorescent screen to create the images. The image may represent electrical waveforms , pictures , radar targets and...

    , it is the positive terminal where electrons flow out of the device, i.e., where positive electric current flows in.


An electrode through which current flows the other way (out of the device) is termed a cathode
Cathode
A cathode is an electrode through which electric current flows out of a polarized electrical device. Mnemonic: CCD .Cathode polarity is not always negative...

.

Etymology


The word was coined in 1834 from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 ἄνοδος (anodos), 'ascent', by William Whewell
William Whewell
William Whewell was an English polymath, scientist, Anglican priest, philosopher, theologian, and historian of science. He was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.-Life and career:Whewell was born in Lancaster...

, who had been consulted by Michael Faraday
Michael Faraday
Michael Faraday, FRS was an English chemist and physicist who contributed to the fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry....

 over some new names needed to complete a paper on the recently discovered process of electrolysis
Electrolysis
In chemistry and manufacturing, electrolysis is a method of using a direct electric current to drive an otherwise non-spontaneous chemical reaction...

. In that paper Faraday explained that when an electrolytic cell is oriented so that electric current traverses the "decomposing body" (electrolyte) in a direction "from East to West, or, which will strengthen this help to the memory, that in which the sun appears to move", the anode is where the current enters the electrolyte, on the East side: "ano upwards, odos a way ; the way which the sun rises" .

The use of 'East' to mean the 'in' direction (actually 'in' → 'East' → 'sunrise' → 'up') may appear contrived. Previously, as related in the first reference cited above, Faraday had used the more straightforward term "eisode" (the doorway where the current enters). His motivation for changing it to something meaning 'the East electrode' (other candidates had been "eastode", "oriode" and "anatolode") was to make it immune to a possible later change in the direction convention for current
Electric current
Electric current is a flow of electric charge through a medium.This charge is typically carried by moving electrons in a conductor such as wire...

, whose exact nature was not known at the time. The reference he used to this effect was the Earth's magnetic field direction, which at that time was believed to be invariant. He fundamentally defined his arbitrary orientation for the cell as being that in which the internal current would run parallel to and in the same direction as a hypothetical magnetizing current loop
Solenoid
A solenoid is a coil wound into a tightly packed helix. In physics, the term solenoid refers to a long, thin loop of wire, often wrapped around a metallic core, which produces a magnetic field when an electric current is passed through it. Solenoids are important because they can create...

 around the local line of latitude which would induce a magnetic dipole
Dipole
In physics, there are several kinds of dipoles:*An electric dipole is a separation of positive and negative charges. The simplest example of this is a pair of electric charges of equal magnitude but opposite sign, separated by some distance. A permanent electric dipole is called an electret.*A...

 field oriented like the Earth's. This made the internal current East to West as previously mentioned, but in the event of a later convention change it would have become West to East, so that the East electrode would not have been the 'way in' any more. Therefore "eisode" would have become inappropriate, whereas "anode" meaning 'East electrode' would have remained correct with respect to the unchanged direction of the actual phenomenon underlying the current, then unknown but, he thought, unambiguously defined by the magnetic reference. In retrospect the name change was unfortunate, not only because the Greek roots alone do not reveal the anode's function any more, but more importantly because, as we now know, the Earth's magnetic field direction on which the "anode" term is based is subject to reversals
Geomagnetic reversal
A geomagnetic reversal is a change in the Earth's magnetic field such that the positions of magnetic north and magnetic south are interchanged. The Earth's field has alternated between periods of normal polarity, in which the direction of the field was the same as the present direction, and reverse...

 whereas the current
Electric current
Electric current is a flow of electric charge through a medium.This charge is typically carried by moving electrons in a conductor such as wire...

 direction convention on which the "eisode" term was based has no reason to change in the future.

Since the later discovery of the electron
Electron
The electron is a subatomic particle with a negative elementary electric charge. It has no known components or substructure; in other words, it is generally thought to be an elementary particle. An electron has a mass that is approximately 1/1836 that of the proton...

, an easier to remember, and more durably correct technically although historically false, etymology has been suggested: anode, from the Greek anodos, 'way up', 'the way (up) out of the cell (or other device) for electrons'.

Flow of electrons


The flow of electrons is always from anode to cathode outside of the cell or device, regardless of the cell or device type and operating mode, with the exception of diodes, where electrode naming always assumes current in the forward direction (that of the arrow symbol), i.e., electrons flow in the opposite direction, even when the diode reverse-conducts either by accident (breakdown of a normal diode) or by design (breakdown of a Zener diode, photo-current of a photodiode or solar cell).

Electrolytic anode


In electrochemistry
Electrochemistry
Electrochemistry is a branch of chemistry that studies chemical reactions which take place in a solution at the interface of an electron conductor and an ionic conductor , and which involve electron transfer between the electrode and the electrolyte or species in solution.If a chemical reaction is...

, the anode is where oxidation occurs and is the positive polarity contact in an electrolytic cell
Electrolytic cell
An electrolytic cell decomposes chemical compounds by means of electrical energy, in a process called electrolysis; the Greek word lysis means to break up. The result is that the chemical energy is increased...

. At the anode, anions (negative ions) are forced by the electrical potential to react chemically and give off electrons (oxidation) which then flow up and into the driving circuit. Mnemonics: LEO Red Cat (Loss of Electrons is Oxidation, Reduction occurs at the Cathode), or AnOx Red Cat (Anode Oxidation, Reduction Cathode), or OIL RIG (Oxidation is Loss, Reduction is Gain of electrons), or Roman Catholic and Orthodox (Reduction - Cathode, anode - Oxidation), or LEO the lion says GER (Losing electrons is Oxidation, Gaining electrons is Reduction)

This process is widely used in metals refining. For example, in copper refining, copper anodes, an intermediate product from the furnaces, are electrolysed in an appropriate solution (such as sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid
Sulfuric acid is a strong mineral acid with the molecular formula . Its historical name is oil of vitriol. Pure sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive, colorless, viscous liquid. The salts of sulfuric acid are called sulfates...

) to yield high purity (99.99%) cathodes. Copper cathodes produced using this method are also described as electrolytic copper.

Battery or galvanic cell anode


In a battery
Battery (electricity)
An electrical battery is one or more electrochemical cells that convert stored chemical energy into electrical energy. Since the invention of the first battery in 1800 by Alessandro Volta and especially since the technically improved Daniell cell in 1836, batteries have become a common power...

 or galvanic cell
Galvanic cell
A Galvanic cell, or Voltaic cell, named after Luigi Galvani, or Alessandro Volta respectively, is an electrochemical cell that derives electrical energy from spontaneous redox reaction taking place within the cell...

, the anode is the negative electrode from which electrons flow out towards the external part of the circuit. Internally the positively charged cations are flowing away from the anode (even though it is negative and therefore would be expected to attract them, this is due to electrode potential
Electrode potential
Electrode potential, E, in electrochemistry, according to an IUPAC definition, is the electromotive force of a cell built of two electrodes:* on the left-hand side is the standard hydrogen electrode, and...

 relative to the electrolyte solution being different for the anode and cathode metal/electrolyte systems); but, external to the cell in the circuit, electrons are being pushed out through the negative contact and thus through the circuit by the voltage potential as would be expected. Note: in a galvanic cell, contrary to what occurs in an electrolytic cell, no anions flow to the anode, the internal current being entirely accounted for by the cations flowing away from it (cf drawing).

In the United States, many battery manufacturers regard the positive electrode as the anode, particularly in their technical literature. Though technically incorrect, it does resolve the problem of which electrode is the anode in a secondary (or rechargeable) cell. Using the traditional definition, the anode switches ends between charge and discharge cycles.

Vacuum tube anode


In electronic vacuum devices such as a cathode ray tube
Cathode ray tube
The cathode ray tube is a vacuum tube containing an electron gun and a fluorescent screen used to view images. It has a means to accelerate and deflect the electron beam onto the fluorescent screen to create the images. The image may represent electrical waveforms , pictures , radar targets and...

, the anode is the positively charged electron collector. In a tube, the anode is a charged positive plate that collects the electrons emitted by the cathode through electric attraction. It also accelerates the flow of these electrons.

Diode anode


In a semiconductor
Semiconductor
A semiconductor is a material with electrical conductivity due to electron flow intermediate in magnitude between that of a conductor and an insulator. This means a conductivity roughly in the range of 103 to 10−8 siemens per centimeter...

 diode
Diode
In electronics, a diode is a type of two-terminal electronic component with a nonlinear current–voltage characteristic. A semiconductor diode, the most common type today, is a crystalline piece of semiconductor material connected to two electrical terminals...

, the anode is the P-doped layer which initially supplies holes
Electron hole
An electron hole is the conceptual and mathematical opposite of an electron, useful in the study of physics, chemistry, and electrical engineering. The concept describes the lack of an electron at a position where one could exist in an atom or atomic lattice...

to the junction. In the junction region, the holes supplied by the anode combine with electrons supplied from the N-doped region, creating a depleted zone. As the P-doped layer supplies holes to the depleted region, negative dope ions are left behind in the P-doped layer ('P' for positive charge-carrier ions). This creates a base negative charge on the anode. When a positive voltage is applied to anode of the diode from the circuit, more holes
Electron hole
An electron hole is the conceptual and mathematical opposite of an electron, useful in the study of physics, chemistry, and electrical engineering. The concept describes the lack of an electron at a position where one could exist in an atom or atomic lattice...

are able to be transferred to the depleted region, and this causes the diode to become conductive, allowing current to flow through the circuit. The terms anode and cathode should not be applied to a Zener diode, since it allows flow in either direction, depending on the polarity of the applied potential (i.e. voltage).

Sacrificial anode



In cathodic protection
Cathodic protection
Cathodic protection is a technique used to control the corrosion of a metal surface by making it the cathode of an electrochemical cell. The simplest method to apply CP is by connecting the metal to be protected with another more easily corroded "sacrificial metal" to act as the anode of the...

, a metal anode that is more reactive to the corrosive environment of the system to be protected is electrically linked to the protected system, and partially corrodes
Corrosion
Corrosion is the disintegration of an engineered material into its constituent atoms due to chemical reactions with its surroundings. In the most common use of the word, this means electrochemical oxidation of metals in reaction with an oxidant such as oxygen...

 or dissolves, which protects the metal of the system it is connected to. As an example, an iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

 or steel
Steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

 ship's hull
Hull (watercraft)
A hull is the watertight body of a ship or boat. Above the hull is the superstructure and/or deckhouse, where present. The line where the hull meets the water surface is called the waterline.The structure of the hull varies depending on the vessel type...

 may be protected by a zinc sacrificial anode, which will dissolve into the seawater and prevent the hull from being corroded. Sacrificial anodes are particularly needed for systems where a static charge
Electrostatics
Electrostatics is the branch of physics that deals with the phenomena and properties of stationary or slow-moving electric charges....

 is generated by the action of flowing liquids, such as pipelines and watercraft.

In 1824 to reduce the impact of this destructive electrolytic action on ships hulls, their fastenings and underwater equipment, the Victorian scientist-engineer Sir Humphry Davy, developed the first and still most widely used marine electrolysis protection system. Davy installed sacrificial anodes made from a more electrically reactive (less noble) metal attached to the vessel hull and electrically connected to form a cathodic protection circuit.

A less obvious example of this type of protection is the process of galvanising iron (though the name of the process provides the essential clue). This process coats iron structures (such as fencing) with a coating of zinc
Zinc
Zinc , or spelter , is a metallic chemical element; it has the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. It is the first element in group 12 of the periodic table. Zinc is, in some respects, chemically similar to magnesium, because its ion is of similar size and its only common oxidation state is +2...

 metal. As long as the zinc remains intact, the iron is protected from the effects of corrosion. Inevitably, the zinc coating becomes breached, either by cracking or physical damage. Once this occurs, corrosive elements act as an electrolyte and the zinc/iron combination as electrodes. The resultant current ensures that the zinc coating is sacrificed but that the base iron does not corrode. Such a coating can protect an iron structure for a few decades, but once the protecting coating is consumed, the iron rapidly corrodes.

If, conversely, tin is used to coat steel, when a breach of the coating occurs it actually accelerates oxidation of the iron.

At least one anode is found in tank-type water heaters. The anode should be removed and checked after 5 years (sooner if there is a sodium based water softner inline), and replaced if 15 cm (6 inches) or more of bare wire is showing. This will greatly extend the life of the tank.

Related antonym


The opposite of an anode is a cathode
Cathode
A cathode is an electrode through which electric current flows out of a polarized electrical device. Mnemonic: CCD .Cathode polarity is not always negative...

. When the current through the device is reversed, the electrodes switch functions, so anode becomes cathode, while cathode becomes anode, as long as the reversed current is applied, with the exception of diodes where electrode naming is always based on the forward current direction.

External links