Differences between galvanic and electrolytic cells

Last Updated on December 18, 2021 by QCity Editorial Stuff

Electrolytic cells and galvanic cells are both used in the construction of batteries. However, they differ in their function and design. 

Electrolytic cells use an electrolyte to separate the two electrodes while galvanic cells have a non-electrolyte that separates them.  Electrodes in galvanic cells produce electricity by reacting with each other when they come into contact with water or acid, but this is not the case for electrolytic cells which require an external power source such as a battery to complete the circuit and supply voltage. The efficiency of these two types of batteries also differs greatly; while only one cell is needed for galvanic cell operation, multiple cells are required for electrolytic cell operation due to their need for an external voltage source.

Electrolytic cells are more efficient than galvanic cells because they can use the entire voltage of an external power supply, whereas with galvanic cells only one-half of the voltage is available. This difference in efficiency is due to the lack of a chemical reaction that takes place during electrolysis. The reactions that take place in a galvanic cell are not spontaneous and must be catalyzed by either an electrode or another reactant such as an acid.  Electrolysis occurs when electricity passes through water molecules which breaks them into hydrogen ions (H) and hydroxide ions (OH). When these two substances combine, it creates H2O or water vapor gas!  One drawback to using electrolysis for energy production is its high cost per watt.

Comparison between galvanic and electrolytic cells

Parameters of ComparisonGalvanic cellselectrolytic cells
Made ofIn galvanic cells, the anode is made of a metal that dissolves easily in waterThe cathode is made of a metal that doesn’t dissolve easily in water
ACgalvanic cells use alternating current (AC)Electrolytic cells use direct current (DC)
UsedGalvanic cells are used to make zinc or lead-acid batteriesElectrolytic cells are used to produce aluminum, steel, and other metals
MetalThe anode in galvanic cells is made of metalthe cathode is made of carbon
ElectrolyticThe anode in electrolytic cells is also metalcathode can be either carbon or platinum

What are galvanic cells?

Galvanic cells are the most common type of cell found in living organisms, and they work by using an electrolyte to separate two different metals. One metal will corrode at a quicker pace than the other metal, which causes ions to flow across the membrane separating them. This ion flow creates an electric charge, which is what powers these cells. The more corrosion that occurs on one side of the galvanic cell membrane means that there is more of a charge present on that side than on the other side. This imbalance between charges causes electrons to move from where they are less concentrated (the positive electrode) towards where they are more concentrated (the negative electrode). 

Galvanic cells are a type of electrochemical cell that converts chemical potential energy into electrical energy. They are commonly used in batteries and can be found in a variety of applications across many industries. In this article, we will take a closer look at galvanic cells and discuss their construction and operation. We will also explore some of the key benefits they offer and discuss some common applications. Finally, we will provide a few tips on how to select the right galvanic cell for your needs.

A galvanic cell is a type of battery that uses two different types of metal electrodes to create an electrical current. The chemical reaction between the metals causes electrons to flow from one electrode to the other, creating electricity. This process can be used to power devices or produce chemical reactions. Galvanic cells are often found in electronic devices and corrosion prevention systems.

Differences between galvanic and electrolytic cells

What are electrolytic cells?

Electrolytic cells are a type of electrochemical cell that decomposes chemical compounds through the application of an electric current. The process is also known as electrolysis, which means “to break down with electricity.” Electrolytic cells use two electrodes submerged in water to conduct the electrical current and produce hydrogen gas at one electrode and oxygen gas at the other. By applying an external voltage across these electrodes, water molecules are split into their components: hydrogen ions (H+) and hydroxyl ions (OH-). The electrons flow from the negative electrode to the positive one through a wire or conductor while overcoming resistance. This causes oxidation reactions on both electrodes’ surfaces that result in the production of gasses on opposite sides of each electrode. 

Electrolytic cells are a type of battery that uses a liquid electrolyte to create an electrical current. The electrolyte is a solution of water and dissolved ions that allow electricity to flow between the electrodes. Electrolytic cells are often used in devices like flashlights and portable power tools because they can provide a high level of current for a short amount of time.

Differences between galvanic and electrolytic cells

10 Differences between galvanic and electrolytic cells

1. In galvanic cells, the anode is made of a metal that dissolves easily in water.

2. The cathode is made of a metal that doesn’t dissolve easily in water.

3. The electrolyte conducts electricity and helps to separate ions from one another.

4. The anion moves away from the anode and toward the cathode through the solution; cations move into the cell at both electrodes.

5. Electrolytic cells use direct current (DC) whereas galvanic cells use alternating current (AC).

6. Galvanic Cells give off heat as they produce energy but electrolytic cells do not because DC does not alternate currents as AC does.

7. Electrolytic cells are used to produce aluminum, steel, and other metals.

8. Galvanic cells are used to make zinc or lead-acid batteries.

9. The anode in galvanic cells is made of metal while the cathode is made of carbon.

10. The anode in electrolytic cells is also metal but the cathode can be either carbon or platinum.

Interesting Statistics or Facts of galvanic cells

1. Galvanic cells are often used in batteries.

2. They generate an electric current by using two different metals, one of which is oxidized while the other is reduced.

3. The most common galvanic cell uses copper and zinc as its electrodes.

4. Galvanic cells can be found in cars to power their starter motors or even in solar panels for energy production.

5. The voltage produced by a galvanic cell depends on the difference between the two metal electrodes’ potentials or voltages.

6. A typical car battery will produce 12 volts with 6 cells connected.

Interesting Statistics or Facts of electrolytic cells

1. The electrolytic cell was invented by Michael Faraday in 1839.

2. Electrolysis is the process of using electricity to break down a compound into its parts.

3. Sodium chloride, also known as table salt, can be broken down into sodium and chlorine gas by an electric current.

4. An electrolyte is a substance that conducts electricity when it contains ions or charged particles.

5. A battery uses chemical reactions to produce energy while an electrolytic cell uses electrical energy to create chemical changes.

6. When you use your car’s headlights at night, the light comes from the electrons produced by the battery   which are released through wires connected to metal contacts on either side of each bulb’s base-the filament inside lights up because it reacts with oxygen in the air.


The difference between galvanic and electrolytic cells is that the cell membrane of a galvanic cell has an oxidation-reduction reaction, while in an electrolytic cell it’s replaced by ion movement. The purpose of both types of cells is to generate a chemical change or decomposition without any outside intervention. Another way they differ from one another is that the voltage needed for a galvanic cell can be as high as 5 volts, but only 1 volt will do if you’re using an electrolysis process. That’s because with this type of battery there are no ions present on either side (outside) so the process must take place across semi-permeable membranes inside each half.


Resource 01: www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/galvanic-cell
Resource 02: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrolytic_cell

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