Standard Article

The components of an electrochemical cell

Fundamentals and Survey of Systems

Thermodynamics and kinetics of fuel cell reactions

  1. A. Hamnett

Published Online: 15 DEC 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470974001.f101001

Handbook of Fuel Cells

Handbook of Fuel Cells

How to Cite

Hamnett, A. 2010. The components of an electrochemical cell. Handbook of Fuel Cells. .

Author Information

  1. University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2010


Electrochemical cells are formed when two electronically conducting electrodes are placed in an ionically conducting medium, the electrolyte. When current is passed through the cell, electrochemical reactions take place at each electrode, leading to nett chemical conversion of one or more constituents of the cell into new materials. This chapter reviews the nature of the chemical reactions in simple cells, distinguishes between electrolysis and galvanic cell operation, describes the structure and dynamical behavior of the electrolyte, and reviews the properties of some special electrolytes of relevance to fuel cells: ionically conducting membranes, solid ionic conductors and molten salts.


  • Cell;
  • electrode;
  • anode;
  • cathode;
  • ionic conductivity;
  • electrolysis;
  • galvanic cell;
  • solid polymer electrolyte;
  • polymer–electrolyte membrane;
  • superionic conductivity;
  • molten salt;
  • solid ionic conductor