Why can't you just hook up a piece of wire between a piece of zinc and copper and get an electric current? What is it about the electrolyte that makes zinc give up electrons? Also, why will the lack of a salt bridge stop the electric current from moving? Why does balancing out the positivity and negativity at the cathode and anode matter?
closed as too broad by Todd Minehardt, pentavalentcarbon, bon, Jon Custer, A.K. Jun 11 '17 at 15:51
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A close circuit is needed for electrons to flow. The electrolyte and salt bridge serves to complete the circuit. Additionally, the salt bridge also serves to function of maintain electrical neutrality in each half-cell, preventing the accumulation of charges, aiding the flow of electrons.
If charges were to accumulate in each half-cell, the potential difference between the two half-cells, which is the key driver of electrons, would decrease over time to 0 V and no electrons would flow.
There have been many discussions on this site. To cite a few: What is the real purpose of the salt bridge in an electrochemical cell? (look at the comments)