Why is the Anode positively charged in Electrolytic Cell and negatively charged in Electrochemical Cell when all it does in both cells is oxidation, i.e. lose electrons.

Similarly, for the Cathode as well.

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    $\begingroup$ Review the guides Asking and How to ask. Not following the guidance may lead to lack of satisfying answers, objections, question down-voting or even question closure. $\endgroup$
    – Poutnik
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 9:29
  • $\begingroup$ Imagine the galvanic cell Zn|ZnSO4||CuSO4|Cu. Imagine applying external voltage on it at such a value the current is zero. Now imagine what would happen if you 1/ increase the external voltage a little 2/ decrease the external voltage a little. // At more positive electrode (Cu) would occur oxidation(anode) in the (electrolytic) case 1/, reduction(cathode) at (galvanic) case 2. $\endgroup$
    – Poutnik
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 9:42

1 Answer 1


Nomenclature The anode is not positively charged, neither the cathode is negatively charged. There is not an accumulation of charge in the electrodes, rather we have electron transfer from one to another. If there was an accumulation of electrons in the electrodes, batteries would not exist, because electrons would not be able to flow externally and try to use them to produce work.

The correct propositions are:

  1. In a galvanic cell, the potential of the cathode is positive with respect to the anode.
  2. In an electrolytic cell, the potential of the anode is positive with respect to the cathode.

This is due to the fact that it is impossible to measure the potential of a phase, or try to know its sign. Nevertheless, we still refer to the cathode as "positive" and the anode as "negative" in the galvanic cell...

Question Respectively:

  1. The galvanic cell is the spontaneous operation of an electrochemical system, chemical energy (stored in the reactants) is transformed into electric energy. Thus, upon connection of these two electrodes, the electrons or negative charges will flow externally from a region of lower potential to a higher potential in this spontaneous process. This is, from the anode to the cathode, and thus the anode is said to be "negative".
  2. The electrolytic cell is the inverse operation, the surroundings (you as electric energy) try to bring back the chemical energy that was stored in the reactants. Thus, you "give" energy to the cell so that electrons non-spontaneously go from a region of a higher potential to a lower potential. More precisely, you give energy so that the inverse reactions take place. This is, from the anode to the cathode, and thus the anode is said to be "positive".

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