Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/261

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249
FARADAY'S CONCEPTION OF ELECTRICITY.

are separated at the same time from the liquid; some of them are evolved as gases, others are deposited as rigid strata on the surface of the electrodes, like galvanoplastic copper. But the union of two constituents having powerful affinity to form a chemical compound, as you know very well, produces always a great amount of heat, and heat is equivalent to work. On the contrary, decomposition of the compound substances requires work, because it restores the energy of the chemical forces which has been spent by the act of combination.

Metals uniting with oxygen or halogens produce heat in the same way, some of them, like potassium, sodium, zinc, even more heat than an equivalent quantity of hydrogen; less oxidizable metals, like copper, silver, platinum, less. We find, therefore, that heat is generated when zinc drives copper out of its combination with the compound halogen of sulphuric acid, as is the case in a Daniell's cell.

If a galvanic current passes through any conductor, a metallic wire, or an electrolytic fluid, it evolves heat. Mr. Prescott Joule was the first who proved experimentally that, if no other work is done by the current, the total amount of heat evolved in a galvanic circuit during a certain time is exactly equal to that which ought to have been generated by the chemical actions which have been performed during that time. But this heat is not evolved at the surface of the electrodes, where these chemical actions take place, but is evolved in all the parts of the circuit, proportionally to the galvanic resistance of every part. From this it is evident that the heat evolved is an immediate effect, not of the chemical action, but of the galvanic current, and that the chemical work of the battery has been spent in producing only the electric action.

If we apply Faraday's law, a definite amount of electricity passing through the circuit corresponds to a definite amount of chemical decomposition going on in every electrolytic cell of the same circuit. According to the theory of electricity, the work done by such a definite quantity of electricity which passes, producing a current, is proportionate to the electro-motive force acting between both ends of the conductor. You see, therefore, that the electro-motive force of a galvanic circuit must be, and is, indeed, proportionate to the heat generated by the sum of all the chemical actions going on in all the electrolytic cells during the passage of the same quantity of electricity. In cells of the galvanic battery chemical forces are brought into action able to produce work; in cells in which decomposition is occurring work must be done against opposing chemical forces; the rest of the work done appears as heat evolved by the current, as far as it is not used up to produce motions of magnets or other equivalents of work.

Hitherto we have supposed that the ion with its electric charge is separated from the fluid. But the ponderable atoms can give off their electricity to the electrode and remain in the liquid, being now elec-