voltaic cell

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voltaic cell,

a simple device with which chemical energy is converted into electrical energy. Two dissimilar metals (e.g., copper and zinc) are immersed in an electrolyte (e.g., a dissolved sulfate). If the metals are connected by an external circuit, one metal is reduced (i.e., gains electrons) while the other metal is oxidized (i.e., loses electrons). In the example above, copper is reduced and zinc is oxidized. The difference in the oxidation potentials of the two metals provides the electric power of the cell. The voltaic cell is sometimes also called the galvanic cell. The names refer to the 18th-century Italian scientists Alessandro VoltaVolta, Alessandro, Conte
, 1745–1827, Italian physicist. He was professor of physics at the Univ. of Pavia from 1779 and became famous for his work in electricity. Napoleon I made him a count and a senator of the kingdom of Lombardy.
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 and Luigi GalvaniGalvani, Luigi
, 1737–98, Italian physician. He was professor of anatomy from 1775 at the Univ. of Bologna and was noted as a surgeon and for research in comparative anatomy.
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Voltaic Cell


a galvanic element that has electrodes (plates of copper—positive—and zinc—negative) and an electrolyte composed of a solution of sodium chloride or sulfuric acid; its electromotive force is 1.0 V. The voltaic cell was created during experiments carried out by A. Volta in 1792-94 to investigate electric phenomena occurring in a circuit consisting of two different metals and an electrolyte. The voltaic cell, essentially the first chemical source of current, was widely used in laboratory work at the beginning of the 19th century.

voltaic cell

[vōl′tā·ik ′sel]
A primary cell consisting of two dissimilar metal electrodes in a solution that acts chemically on one or both of them to produce a voltage.
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