Half cell
A half-cell is a structure that contains a conductive electrode
An electrode is an electrical conductor used to make contact with a nonmetallic part of a circuit...

 and a surrounding conductive electrolyte
In chemistry, an electrolyte is any substance containing free ions that make the substance electrically conductive. The most typical electrolyte is an ionic solution, but molten electrolytes and solid electrolytes are also possible....

 separated by a naturally occurring Helmholtz double layer. Chemical reactions within this layer momentarily pump electric charge
Electric charge
Electric charge is a physical property of matter that causes it to experience a force when near other electrically charged matter. Electric charge comes in two types, called positive and negative. Two positively charged substances, or objects, experience a mutual repulsive force, as do two...

s between the electrode and the electrolyte, resulting in a potential difference between the electrode and the electrolyte. The typical anode reaction involves a metal atom in the electrode dissolved and transported as a positive ion across the double layer, causing the electrolyte to acquire a net positive charge while the electrode acquires a net negative charge. The growing potential difference creates an intense electric field
Electric field
In physics, an electric field surrounds electrically charged particles and time-varying magnetic fields. The electric field depicts the force exerted on other electrically charged objects by the electrically charged particle the field is surrounding...

 within the double layer, and the potential rises in value until the field halts the net charge-pumping reactions. This self-limiting action occurs almost instantly in an isolated half-cell; in applications two dissimilar half-cells are appropriately connected to constitute a Galvanic cell
Galvanic cell
A Galvanic cell, or Voltaic cell, named after Luigi Galvani, or Alessandro Volta respectively, is an electrochemical cell that derives electrical energy from spontaneous redox reaction taking place within the cell...


A standard half-cell, used in electrochemistry
Electrochemistry is a branch of chemistry that studies chemical reactions which take place in a solution at the interface of an electron conductor and an ionic conductor , and which involve electron transfer between the electrode and the electrolyte or species in solution.If a chemical reaction is...

, consists of a metal electrode in a 1 molar
In chemistry, concentration is defined as the abundance of a constituent divided by the total volume of a mixture. Four types can be distinguished: mass concentration, molar concentration, number concentration, and volume concentration...

 (1 mol/L) aqueous solution
Aqueous solution
An aqueous solution is a solution in which the solvent is water. It is usually shown in chemical equations by appending aq to the relevant formula, such as NaCl. The word aqueous means pertaining to, related to, similar to, or dissolved in water...

 of the metal's salt, at 298 kelvin
The kelvin is a unit of measurement for temperature. It is one of the seven base units in the International System of Units and is assigned the unit symbol K. The Kelvin scale is an absolute, thermodynamic temperature scale using as its null point absolute zero, the temperature at which all...

 (25 °C). The electrochemical series, which consists of standard electrode potentials and is closely related to the reactivity series
Reactivity series
In introductory chemistry, the reactivity series or activity series is an empirical series of metals, in order of "reactivity" from highest to lowest...

, was generated by measuring the difference in potential between the metal half-cell in a circuit with a standard hydrogen half-cell
Standard hydrogen electrode
The standard hydrogen electrode , is a redox electrode which forms the basis of the thermodynamic scale of oxidation-reduction potentials...

, connected by a salt bridge
Salt bridge
A salt bridge, in chemistry, is a laboratory device used to connect the oxidation and reduction half-cells of a galvanic cell , a type of electrochemical cell...


The standard hydrogen half-cell:
2H+(aq) + 2e- → H2(g)

The half-cells of a Daniell cell
Daniell cell
The Daniell cell was invented in 1836 by John Frederic Daniell, a British chemist and meteorologist, and consisted of a copper pot filled with a copper sulfate solution, in which was immersed an unglazed earthenware container filled with sulfuric acid and a zinc electrode...

Original equation
Zn + Cu2+ → Zn2+ + Cu
Half-cell (anode
An anode is an electrode through which electric current flows into a polarized electrical device. Mnemonic: ACID ....

) of Zn
Zn → Zn2+ + 2e
Half-cell (cathode
A cathode is an electrode through which electric current flows out of a polarized electrical device. Mnemonic: CCD .Cathode polarity is not always negative...

) of Cu
Cu2+ + 2e → Cu
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