# Will electric field make organic matters (e.g. glucose) ionize in water?

After reviewing this post, I have a new question regarding ionization and dissolution.

If applying a strong electric field (DC or AC) in a water solution, will the electric field ionize the organic matters that are not ionizable? For example, an electric field makes $\ce{CH3COOH}$ ionize more? Or makes glucose ionized in water instead of forming hydrogen bonding with the water molecular? Thanks.

• Stems from a question originally posted by OP in a comment on this answer. – hBy2Py Feb 17 '17 at 17:30

The short answer to your question is no, particularly for your example of glucose. Part of the key to your question is the statement: "[...] will the electric field ionize the organic matters that are not ionizable?". If they are not ionizable, then they are not ionizable :)

You could electrolyze glucose to polyhydric alcohols as in this patent. But in this case you are not ionizing glucose, but creating an entirely different compound (which is still not strongly ionic).

There are compounds that can be electrolyzed to ionic compounds, but that is really a very different process than what you are asking about. You wouldn't have ionization of the compound, you would be electrochemically converting a non-ionic compound into an ionic compound. See for example, this abstract1 in which the authors electrolyze ethanol to acetic acid, which would then ionize in the aqueous solution to some degree.

But, as in your example of gucose, the ethanol itself would not be ionized. You would simply be producing, via electrochemical reaction, an entirely different, ionic compound.

1) Journal of the Electrochemical Society, "Electrolytic Oxidation of Ethyl Alcohol to Acetic Acid", 1947, volume 92, issue 1, 335-342

• Thanks. How about compounds that partially ionizes in water, such CH3COOH? Will an electrical field alter the dynamic equilibrium into another balance? – Xiao Dai Feb 17 '17 at 21:52
• No, it's an interesting idea, but an electrical field will not change the degree of ionization of a partially ionized compound. Though the ions may be locally attracted to one pole or the other, that has no effect on the degree of ionization (the dynamic equilibrium between the charged and uncharged species). I hope that helps. – airhuff Feb 17 '17 at 22:11
• Even under an extremely strong electromagnetic pulse? Just like tesla coil that can ionize air, can a strong pulse ionize compound in liquid phase? – Xiao Dai Feb 17 '17 at 22:27
• Dissolved ions in aqueous solution can carry current, just like the ions formed in air when the potential of a tesla coil or a spark plug becomes great enough to ionize the air and allow a current to flow. You could certainly blast an aqueous solution with a potential high enough to ionize the water and most anything else in there. But when we're talking about the dissociation of a weak acid for example, the net effect is not going to be an increase of dissociation. Let me continue in the next comment... – airhuff Feb 17 '17 at 23:08
• What we're really talking about is the ability of water to solvate the ionic species in solution, and that is not affected by the presence of a magnetic field. In my example of blasting the solution with a high potential, that will just lead to a bunch of new chemical species from the electrolysis reactions. You might even destroy some of your organic acid, forming some other species altogether, but through it all, not counting transient temperature changes and such, the net degree of dissociation of the organic acid will remain the same. – airhuff Feb 17 '17 at 23:13