Electrochemical Cell Definition

Galvanic and Electrolytic Cells

Diagram of a battery
A battery is a type of electrochemical cell.

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An electrochemical cell is a device that generates a potential difference between electrodes using chemical reactions. Galvanic cells and electrolytic cells are examples of electrochemical cells.

Galvanic cells, which are also known as voltaic cells, use chemical reactions to generate electricity. These cells are named for either Luigi Galvani or Alessandro Volta. They use a spontaneous redox reaction. A typical galvanic cell consists of two different metals that are connected by a salt bridge or a porous membrane.

In contrast, electrolytic cells use electrical energy to cause chemical reactions to occur. The electrical energy overcomes the activation energy required to get a non-spontaneous reaction to proceed. Electrolytic cells are commonly used for electrolysis, which breaks chemical compounds into their elements.

A battery refers to one or more electrochemical cells.