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Learning objects Electrolytic cells: molten salts

TLF ID L8887

Investigate the electrolysis of three molten salts in electrolytic cells where there is only one oxidant and one reductant present. Find out the type of reaction that can be driven by supplying electrical energy, and the reasons behind the cell design. Observe the melting of the electrolyte prior to turning on the power. Then when power is turned on, observe the reactions at the anode and cathode, at both the physical level and the particle level. Determine the half-equations for these reactions and the equation for the net cell reaction. Explain the changes observed. This learning object is one in a series of four learning objects.

Educational details

Key learning objectives
  • Students explain the design of electrolytic cells and why salts must be molten to be suitable for use as the electrolyte.
  • From observation, students determine the nature of the process occurring at each electrode, and the half-equations and the equation for the net cell reaction.
  • Students explain observations at the particle level of the changes occurring in electrolytic cells in which the electrolyte is a molten salt.
Educational value
  • Provides opportunities for students to examine different electrolytic cells in which the electrolyte is a pure molten salt and the electrodes are inert.
  • Includes animations showing the melting of the salts and the cell reactions at the physical and particle level.
  • Supports the development of a deeper understanding of the design of electrolytic cells and of the processes that occur at the surface of the electrodes.
  • Includes options to print diagrams of each electrolytic cell and its equations, as well as notes recording observations and explanations for each cell.
  • Provides additional extension questions as an optional printout.
Year level

11; 12

Learning area
  • science
  • Science/Chemistry
    Student activity
    • Interactives;
    • Experiment;
    • Analysis

    Other details

    • Script writer
    • Name: Rebecca Cox
    • Organisation: CWA New Media
    • Address: Wellington New Zealand
    • URL:
    • Subject matter expert
    • Name: Jenny Sharwood
    • Address: Balwyn North VIC 3104 Australia
    • Educational validator
    • Name: Denis Goodrum
    • Organisation: J & D Consultants
    • Address: Barton ACT 2600 Australia
    • URL:
    • Technical implementer
    • Organisation: CWA New Media
    • Address: Wellington New Zealand
    • URL:
    • Publisher
    • Date of contribution: 20 Sep 2013
    • Organisation: Education Services Australia
    • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
    • URL:
    Access profile
    • Colour independence
    • Device independence
    • Hearing independence
    • Generic
    Learning resource type
    • Interactive Resource
    • Microsoft Internet Explorer - minimum version: 8.0 (MS-Windows) - maximum version: 9.0 (MS-Windows)
    • Firefox - minimum version: (MS-Windows)
    • Safari - minimum version: 5.1 (MacOS)
    Operating systems
    • MacOS - minimum version: 10.6
    • MS-Windows - minimum version: XP - maximum version: 7
    Platform requirements
    • Due to the use of rich media content, this learning object is suitable for a connection speed of 256 kbit/s or faster. This object may not display correctly on the Mac OS X platform in Safari unless viewed with Flash 9 Player 9, 0, 24 (for Safari). Use of earlier increments of the Flash 9 Player may result in playback issues on both PowerPC and Intel based hardware. Indications of an incompatible player are looping and/or flashing animations which are likely to relate to flawed interaction with the API or rendering engine. Intermittent keyboard function is known to be lost via certain browsers.
    • © Education Services Australia Ltd, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements.