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Electrolytic Convection

It is sometimes observed that a single cell of Daniell battery, for instance, or other source of electric current establishing too low a potential difference for the decomposition of water seems to produce a feeble but continuous decomposition. This is very unsatisfactorily accounted for by the hydrogen as liberated combining with dissolved oxygen. (Ganot.) The whole matter is obscure. (See Current)

The resistance of acidulated water as a true conductor is known to be very, almost immeasurably, high. As an electrolytic, its resistance is very much lower. Hence the current produced between immersed electrodes is theoretically almost null, unless the difference of potential between them is high enough to decompose the liquid. Yet a feeble current too great for a true conduction current is sometimes observed when two electrodes with potential difference too low to cause decomposition are immersed in it. Such a current is termed an electrolytic convection current. It is supposed to be due to various causes. Some attribute it to the presence of free oxygen from the air, dissolved in the water with which the hydrogen combines. Others attribute it to the diffusion of the gases of decomposition in the solution; others assume a partial polarization of the molecules without decomposition. Other theories are given, all of which are unsatisfactory. The term is due to Helmholtz.