Last updated: September 1, 2020

What Does Electrolysis Mean?

In chemistry and manufacturing, electrolysis is a method of using a direct electric current (DC) to drive an otherwise non-spontaneous chemical reaction. Electrolysis is commercially highly important as a stage in the separation of elements from naturally occurring sources, such as ores, using an electrolytic cell.

Electrolysis involves the passage of a direct electric current through an ionic substance that is either molten or dissolved in a suitable solvent, resulting in chemical reactions at the electrodes and separation of materials.

Electrolysis causes corrosion of dissimilar metals when passing direct potential current. This is a stray current or circuit that is not following an anticipated path. It can be caused by problems such as:

  • Improper wiring
  • Poor choices in building materials
  • Defective electrical appliances

Introduced currents will flow through the path of least resistance. As a result, lectrolysis is much more destructive to boats than galvanic corrosion.


Corrosionpedia Explains Electrolysis

Electrolysis is a term that is loosely applied to the corrosion processes. The term refers to "solution phenomena" and not to corrosion itself. Electrolysis is the degradation of an electrolyte that occurs as a result of passing electrical current through it.

Electrolysis, in fact, is the process of deteriorating metal by a reaction process. Although the results are the same, corrosion and electrolysis differ by the time required for the process and what usually causes the process.

The main components required to achieve electrolysis are:

  • An electrolyte: a substance containing free ions
  • A direct current (DC) supply: provides the energy necessary to create or discharge the ions in the electrolyte
  • Two electrodes: an electrical conductor

There are two options to protect material from electrolysis:

  • Repeatedly replacing the sacrificial anode
  • Finding the source of the stray voltage and eliminating it

Saltwater is a more serious breeding ground for marine corrosion as the salt makes it more conductive. However, polluted fresh water can be even more conductive with the right contaminants.

Corrosion and electrolysis can cause great damage to metals in a marine environment. The sacrificial anode will help protect materials. However, it is impossible to protect against all forms of electrolysis, and if the anode is not inspected regularly, protection will also be compromised. Since damage can occur before an anode can be changed, it becomes costly to continually change the anode.


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