Refinement of metal using electrolysis

Metals can be refined by using electrolysis. Copper can be purified in this way. The electrolytic cell, shown in Figure 1, uses a cathode made of pure metal and an anode made of impure copper metal. The electrolyte used is copper sulfate. The impurities fall to the bottom of the cell.

The reduction reaction at the negative cathode is: Cu2+ + 2e- → Cu. a copper two plus cation and two electrons goes to copper. In this reaction, copper cations gain electrons to become elemental copper.

The oxidation reaction at the positive anode is: Cu → Cu2+ + 2e-. copper goes to a copper two plus cation and two electrons. In this reaction, copper loses two electrons to become a copper cation.

Figure 1 - Refinement of copper using electrolysis.