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If there was a galvanic cell that had a copper cathode electrode and with a sulfuric acid electrolyte, will the copper ions be reduced and react with the electrolyte or will the H+ ions be reduced?

Normally, with a gaseous electrolyte, an inert anode material is used. I was just curious as to what happens when copper is used as supposed to an inert electrode.

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  • $\begingroup$ Wait, where did those copper ions come from? $\endgroup$ – Ivan Neretin Feb 12 '16 at 5:46
  • $\begingroup$ so there is a copper electrode submerged in a sulfuric acid electrolyte. That was my question: would copper just act like an inert electrode like platinum and transfer the electrons, or would the copper electrode be reduced and react with sulfuric acid? $\endgroup$ – user510 Feb 12 '16 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ Electrode can never be reduced. It consists of metallic copper; it is the reduced form already, you can't reduce it any further. $\endgroup$ – Ivan Neretin Feb 12 '16 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ so the hydrogen in sulfuric acid would be reduced to H+ ions? $\endgroup$ – user510 Feb 12 '16 at 20:58
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If you started with a full cell with two inert electrodes immersed in sulfuric acid and applied a large enough voltage between them, a current would flow. At one electrode, the easiest to oxidize species would be oxidized (in this case, that would probably be 2 H2O -> O2 + 4 H+ + 4e-). At the same time, the easiest to reduce species would be reduced at the other electrode (probably 2H+ + 2e- -> H2). If you switched the cathode electrode from some inert metal to copper, the easiest reduction would still be 2H+ + 2e- -> H2 (Remember, there is no Cu2+ in the system to reduce). If, on the other hand, you changed the anode from inert metal to copper, the easiest oxidation would probably be Cu -> Cu2+ + 2e-, so the net reaction would change.

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  • $\begingroup$ what if the sulfuric acid electrolyte is part of a galvanic cell. What would happen then? $\endgroup$ – user510 Feb 13 '16 at 2:12

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