What is the difference between cathode and anode?

Cathode and Anode

If you were today years old when you understand what is the difference between cathode and anode, then you are not alone. Most of us rarely deal with these terms unless we are repairing water heaters or installing our own vehicle or boat batteries. So if you are looking for an article that explains the differences in plain English, look no further. Here, we discuss what an anode is, what a cathode is, how they all work, and what they are used for.

Before we understand the difference between cathode and anode, we need to understand what an electrode is. According to the general definition, an electrode is a substance that helps conduct electricity, in which current enters or leaves a non-metallic medium, such as an electrolytic cell.

In simple terms, an electrode is a conductor that helps to establish electrical contact with the non-metallic parts of the circuit. The electrode consists of two main points, called the cathode and the anode, which basically describe the direction of current flow.

Anodes and cathodes in batteries: an overview

Trying to understand how a battery works is like learning another language, especially when you hardly remember high school chemistry. Below, we will analyze the components required for battery charging and discharging (in a bite-sized, easy-to-understand way).


The anode is the negative electrode and is one of the important components of the battery. It is usually made of metal and can oxidize and send electrons to the cathode (positive electrode). This is an electrochemical reaction that produces electrons (ie electricity).

How does the anode work?

The anode is an oxide metal, such as zinc or lithium, which means it loses electrons. It exists in the electrolyte solvent and slowly erodes as the electrons move along the conductor to the cathode.

The conductor (whether it is a metal wire or a metal tube) is how we obtain the electricity generated by the anode and how the battery ultimately powers our equipment. Once the anode is completely corroded, the battery will die (or lose its charge).

Suitable materials for anode

The anode can come from several different materials. These include zinc, lithium, graphite or platinum. A good anode should be an efficient reducing agent, with good conductivity, stability and high coulomb output (electrical output).


Like the anode, the cathode is one of the electrodes in the battery. However, the cathode is called the positive electrode because it gains electrons instead of losing them. Therefore, the anode is oxidized (losing electrons) and the cathode is reduced (gaining electrons).

How does the cathode work?

Essentially, the cathode receives electrons from the anode there. Both the anode and cathode are immersed in the electrolyte solution, and current flows from the battery’s negative electrode to the positive electrode through the conductor. In short, this is how batteries generate electricity.

Suitable materials for cathode

The cathode may be any material as long as it is an effective oxidant that is stable when in contact with the electrolyte. Metal oxides are excellent cathode materials because they also have useful operating voltages. These include copper oxide, lithium oxide, and pattern oxides.

Anodes and cathodes in batteries

How do you distinguish anode and cathode?

It’s actually really easy. Most RVs, cars, and even household batteries have plus (+) and minus (-) signs on each end. Because the anode is the negative electrode (and therefore loses electrons), the negative sign refers to the anode. On the other hand, the plus sign refers to the cathode because it is the positive electrode (and therefore gains electrons).

Why is it important to understand the difference between cathode and anode?

It is important to understand the difference between cathode and anode because you can understand exactly how the battery works, whether you are on a boat, driving a recreational vehicle, or just replacing the battery in the remote control. Whether you install the solar equipment yourself or replace the battery, you will be confident in your ability to properly install the equipment’s power supply.

It is also helpful when you start the car quickly. Have you ever tried to find out where you need to connect the booster cable clamp in the blank space? Now you know-one is on the negative side (anode) and the other is on the positive side (cathode).

In addition, you can talk with friends that sound smart!

Other places that the anode and cathode play a role

The anode and cathode also play a role in other places outside the battery. For example, ships have “sacrificial anodes” as cathodic protective agents, and the cathode is the parent material you need to prevent corrosion.

You can also find anodes in household utilities. The water heater has a sacrificial anode rod, which can extend the service life of the water heater. Essentially, the anode rod will attract minerals in the water and corrode rather than the water tank itself. Therefore, the name is “sacrifice”.

Anodes can also help protect fluid tanks and pipes from corrosion—always protect the cathode (the important material that the manufacturer wants to protect).

The role of anode and cathode in the battery


Most of us don’t know what anode or cathode is, simply because we don’t deal with these terms in our daily lives. However, if you own a car, recreational vehicle, or boat, like to repair, or just want to know how things work, then it’s helpful to be familiar with the difference between cathode and anode.

After all, they exist in your battery, water heater, and many other places in your daily life!

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