Anode Vs. Cathode – What is the Difference?

Commercial & Industrial Equipment Supplier

If you check out information on batteries, power for plating applications, or other uses for lead anodes, you will see the term “cathode” also. Although most people are familiar with these terms, they really do not know the differences between them. Here is information to help you get a better understanding of anode and cathode.

It is all about the Flow of Electricity

Electricity refers to the movement of electrons from one atom to another. This is what creates an electrical current. All electrical charges move from negative terminal (cathode) to the positive terminal (anode). However, this is not always the case. For example, when the power source is being recharged, the flow of electrons is reversed, and current flows to the cathode. When this occurs, the cathode then becomes an anode and vice versa. This is why you cannot simply refer to cathodes as positive terminals or products like lead anodes as negative terminals.

Not Always Together

You would think whenever you see a cathode in an application; you will also see an anode. In most cases, this is true but not always. For example, sacrificial anodes in marine applications do not need cathodes. Zinc is an excellent material for sacrificial anodes because it sacrifices itself to corrosion, protecting the underlying metal. Here is how it works.

A zinc coated anode is protecting metal from the harmful and corrosive effects of seawater. As the vessel moves through the saltwater, a static charge of electricity is produced. The sacrificial anode slowly absorbs this charge. Instead of the original metal corroding, the zinc is corroded instead.

Points to Remember

Normally, materials like lead anodes are the negative terminals in circuits. Cathodes are usually positive except during charging cycles where the roles are reversed. When you need lead materials for your business, a specialty manufacturer is the best source to turn to.