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Does the concentration in the voltaic cells which is powering the electrolytic cell, effect the cell
potential and therefore, the amount of metal electroplating a copper strip?


As a result of the high concentration of metal ions the potential energy of the voltaic cell will increase
due to the increased movement of particles. Therefore as the concentration increases, so will the
amount of metal ions that are plating the strip of copper.


A Voltaic Cell is a cell which converts chemical energy of oxidants and reductants into electrical energy.
it is made from connecting two different metals and submerging the pieces into a fluid that creates a
conduction atmosphere. This cell usually works with application of the galvanic technique. A galvanic
voltaic cell consists of two metals, ie. copper and zinc, placed closely together. These pieces are then
separated by a salt solution causing the electrochemical reaction to occur. The concept of this reaction
is that metal contains cations, ions that have more protons than electrons. Cations react with water,
which contains anions, ions that have more electrons than protons. Both pieces of metal must be
separated by a barrier as one metal will cause the reduction or oxidation to the other. The reaction
between the anion and cation creates an exchange of electrons and thus, creates electricity (Chavis,
2010). In a voltaic cell there are electrodes, which are conductors used to allow the flow of electrons in
an electrochemical cell. One electrode is the anode and the other is the cathode. The anode is negative
and is the one that disintegrates. Oxidation will always occur at the anode. The cathode is positive and
the solid deposits onto the cathode. Reduction occurs at the cathode. A salt bridge in a voltaic cell,
allows for migration of ions to complete the electrical circuit. The flow of electrons is from anode to
cathode, positive to negative (unknown, 2010).
An example of a voltaic cell; 2 half-cells connected by a wire and salt bridge to complete electrical

--- Zn2+
Anode: Zn Eo = +0.76V
> + 2e

Cu2+ + ---
Cathode: Cu Eo = +0.35V
2e >

Zn + --- Zn2+
Cell: Eocell = +1.11V
Cu2+ > + Cu

In the example given above the follow reactions are taking place: at the negative anoder, zinc is
oxidised to zinc ions. At the positive cathode, copper ions are reduced to copper atoms. The electron
flow is from the zinc anode to the copper cathode. The overall reaction; zinc is donating electrons to
copper ions. This redox reaction spontaneously occurs as E0 is positive (blah, ). For this reaction to be
successful in powering an electrolytic cell, the amount of electricity that is required to power the cell
must be less than that produced by the voltaic cell (unknown, 2010).

An electrolytic cell is an electrochemical cell which requires energy from a supplied voltage to drive an
otherwise non-spontaneous reaction. ‘Such a cell could be produced by applying a reverse voltage to a
voltaic cell such as the Daniell cell’ (Nave, 2010). The current passes around the external circuit to and
from the battery by the movement of electrons. Positive ions from the electrolyte carry electrons from
the cathode and use them to reduce ions. Simultaneously, the negative ions move to the positive
electrode (anode) to deposit electrons and oxidise (Charco, 2004).
The choices made for the metals were determined according to their reducing E0 values in the IB data
booklet. Copper and magnesium were chosen as together they produce a rather large voltage.

Anode: Cu2+ + e- ---> Cu Eo = +0.15V

Cathode: Mg ---> Mg2+ + e- Eo = +2.37V

Cell: Mg + Cu2+ ---> Mg2+ + Cu Eocell = +2.52V

By choosing zinc and copper for the electrolytic cell the calculated voltage below 0. Moreover, this will
produce a non-spontaneous reaction. Therefore, powering this cell with the electrolytic cell should
theoretically succeed (Kleinschmidt, 2010).

Cell potential has a contribution from the anode (a measure of its

ability to loose electrons- “oxidation potential” and the cathode (a
measure of its ability to gain electrons-“reduction potential”). Cell
potential is determined from the follow equation:

Ecell = oxidation potential + reduction potential

Electrode potential depends upon concentration of substances,
temperature, and pressure. Therefore a result of a concentration
difference in a voltaic cell, between cations and anions, will cause the
voltage to differ from the standard cell potential (Nave, 2010). By
increasing molarity, there is an increase in availability of ions in the
aqueous metal nitrate being used. An excess concentration of Cu2+
(aq) will produce higer voltage. The graph shoes the increase in cell Figure 1: as concentration of
voltage with increase the concentration of the cation (Nave, 2010). copper ions increase, so
does the voltage produced
(Nave, 2010)

Variables Identified Type of Variable Treatment

Concentration Independent Variable 3 different concentrations of copper

nitrate will be investigated 1M, 2M, 3M

The amount of metal Dependent Variable The mass of copper will be recorded
electroplated onto the before and after on the electronic
copper strip scales (±0.001) to determine the
amount of metal which has
electroplated the copper strip

Solution Controlled Variable The solution type (metal sulphate),

state (liquid), quantity and
temperature will remain constant
throughout the investigation

A CuSO4 and MgSO4 solution will be

Metals Controlled Variable The type of metal will be used
throughout the experiment. these
metals will be magnesium, lead and

Salt solution Controlled Variable The same type of salt solution will be
used to soak the porous cup. Any
available salt solution will be sufficient
(e.g. KNO3)

Apparatus Controlled Variable This same apparatus will be used.

These include; 2 of the same size
beakers for the solutions, the same
sized porous cup, the same voltmeter
and power pack used, the same
alligator clips, the same measuring
cylinders to measure volume and the
same electronic scale for measuring
the weight of the metals

Environmental Conditions Uncontrolled Variable The air temperature that day and thus
movement of particles is


The design of this experiment does not require a control for comparison purposes as all test groups will
be compared to each other, in order to determine which concentration will produce the most amount of
metal electroplated onto the copper strip.


• 1 x porous cup
• 2 x 100cm³ beaker
• 1 x 50cm³ measuring cylinder
• Voltmeter
• Power pack
• 4 alligator clips
• Power pack
• Metal thongs
• Paper towel
• Electronic scale to 3 decimal places


• 35cm ³ available salt solution (e.g. KNO3)

• 10 strips of copper
• 5 strips of zinc
• 5 strips of magnesium
• 150cm³ zinc nitrate
• 150cm³ copper nitrate 1M, 2M, 3M
• 150cm³ magnesium nitrate


Safety aspect Risk Precaution MSDS reference

Spilling the metal Irritant of the eyes and Clean up spills

nitrates skin immediately with water.
Wewar protective
clothing and glasses

Inhalation of metal Poisoning Keep away from mouth

nitrates and nose.

Electrocution from Electrocution Handle the metals and n/a

power pack alligator clips with care.
Make sure the power
pack is turned off
before attaching or
removing the alligator



Porous cup

Magnesium Copper strip

strip (anode) (cathode)

Copper nitrate
Cu(NO3)2 (aq)
Mg(NO3)2 (aq)
100cm³ beaker




Copper strip
Zinc nitrate (cathode)
Zn(Nos)2 (aq)

Porous cup

Copper strip
strip (anode) Zinc
strip Zinc
(anod nitrate
Magnesium e) Zn(Nos)2
nitrate Copper strip
Mg(NO3)2 (aq) (cathode)
100cm³ beaker
Copper nitrate
Cu(NO3)2 (aq)


Part A: voltaic cell

1. In a bath of the available salt solution, soak the porous cup for 5 minutes.
2. Use the metal thongs to remove the porous cup, and place it into one of the 100cm³ beakers.
3. Obtain a strip of magnesium, a strip of copper, copper nitrate solution and magnesium nitrate.
4. With the measuring cylinder, measure 30cm³ of copper nitrate.
5. Pour the measured copper nitrate solution into the porous cup.
6. Measure 30cm³ of magnesium nitrate with the measuring cylinder and pour this into the beaker,
outside of the porous cup as illustrated in figure 2.
7. Place the copper strip into the porous cup so that it is submerged into the copper nitrate
solution so it serves as an electrode.
8. To the copper strip attach one of an alligator clip and the other end to the 10V end on the
9. Place the magnesium strip into beaker, outside of the porous cup.
10. Clip another alligator clip to the magnesium strip with one end and attach the other to the 0 on
the voltmeter.
11. Record the reading on the voltmeter to table 3.

Part B: electrolytic cell

This test is to ensure that the voltaic cell used to power the electrolytic cell has a comparison.

1. In a measuring cylinder, measure 30cm³ of zinc nitrate and pour into the second 100cm³ beaker.
2. Place a zinc strip into beaker of zinc nitrate, ensuring that it reminds on one side.
3. Perhaps bend the zinc strip over the edge of the beaker.
4. Place one end of an alligator clip onto the zinc and the other onto the positive end of the D.C on
the power pack, as the zinc is the anode.
5. On the electronic scales, make note of the initial mass of the copper.
6. Repeat steps 2-4 however with the copper strip ensuring that is remains on the opposite end to
the zinc strip. As it is the cathode in this reaction, it must be attached to the negative end of the
D.C on the power pack via the alligator clip.
7. As this reaction requires very little electricity to occur, turn the dial to 2V and record the
8. The copper should visibly slowly be plated with zinc.
9. When the reaction is complete, switch off the power pack and remove the copper from the zinc
nitrate and the alligator clip and weigh its final mass on the electronic scales.
10. Note whether there is a change in mass.

Part C: using the voltaic cell to power the electrolytic cell

1. Set up the voltaic cell as explained in part A from steps 1-9 but do not yet attach the alligator
clips to anything.
2. Set up the electrolytic cell as mentioned in part B, from steps 1-5.
3. Place the copper strip into the beaker of zinc nitrate ensuring that it stays on the opposite end
of the beaker to the zinc.
4. Using an alligator clip, attach one end to the magnesium strip (anode) of the voltaic cell and the
other end to the copper strip in the electrolytic cell (cathode)
5. With the other alligator clip, attach one end of the second alligator clip to the copper (cathode)
and the other end to the zinc (anode) in the electrolytic cell.
6. Allow the reaction to occur for a 10-15 minutes.
7. Remove the alligator clips attached to the copper in the electrolytic cell.
8. Place the paper towel onto the electronic scale and re-zero the scales.
9. Remove the copper from the zinc nitrate and carefully place it onto the paper towel on the
electronic scales using the metal thongs.
10. Record the measurement into table 3.
11. Rinse the apparatus if it has been in contact with the chemicals and repeat this process using
different pieces of zinc and copper, a total of 5 times with 1M copper nitrate solution and, 5
times using the 2M copper nitrate solution and 5 times with the 3M copper nitrate solution in the
voltaic cell used to power the electrolytic cell.