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Q & A: battery physics

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Most recent answer: 03/10/2017
Q:
first off I am so grateful for this site and scientists like you. I am curious to how batteries work and what I don't understand, is how do anodes and cathodes "speak" to each other over a copper wire. for instance zinc oxidates and gives its electrons to copper over a wire...how does zinc know that copper is at the other end of the wire, besides that, does the wire in those classical battery demonstrations also undergo reduction?
- raccoon (age 35)
south africa
A:

Great question. The electrodes don't "know" much about each other, except how much the other electrode is pushing or pulling the electrons in the wire. That information is conveyed by motion of the electrons in the wire. It determines whether the electrons flow from one electrode to the other. If the electrodes ae made of the same material, the pushes are equal. If they're different, there's a net flow as material is given off by one electrode and deposited on the other.

Mike W.


(published on 03/10/2017)

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