9 Electrolyte Examples in Daily Life


Anyone who follows sports might have seen the athletes drinking a colored drink during the break. The famous sport’s commercials introduce that beverage as “electrolyte.” But what does this term means? An electrolyte is a substance that can conduct electricity when dissolved in a polar solvent such as water. When some substances are dissolved in polar solvents, they undergo either a physical or a chemical change that yields ions in solution, though the solution remains electrically neutral. If an electric potential is applied to such a solution, the cations of the solution are drawn to the electrode that has an abundance of electrons, while the anions are drawn to the electrode that has a deficit of electrons. This flow of ions across the solution makes it electrically conductive. The electrolytes are primarily categorized into three types based on their efficiency to conduct electricity.

  • A strong electrolyte is a solute that can completely dissociate itself in an aqueous or polar solution. The solution will contain only ions and no molecules of the electrolyte. The strong electrolytes are good conductors of electricity when prepared as an aqueous solution. These substances generally include strong acids, strong bases, and ionic compounds such as salts.
  • A weak electrolyte is an electrolyte that does not completely dissociate in an aqueous solution. The solution will contain both ions and molecules of the electrolyte. Weak electrolytes only partially ionize in water (usually 1% to 10%). Therefore, weak electrolytes are not as efficient as strong electrolytes in conducting electricity. These substances generally include weak acids and weak bases, most of which are covalent compounds.
  • A nonelectrolyte is a substance that does not dissociate itself at all when dissolved in a polar or aqueous solution. These substances do not conduct electricity when a potential difference is applied across them. A common example can be glucose.

The electrolytes have great physiological importance and can be found around us in our daily lives. Let’s take a look at few examples

1. Table salt


(a) A nonelectrolyte solution does not contain ions, and the bulb does not light. (b) A weak electrolyte solution contains ions to serve as charge carriers, causing the bulb to glow in dim light  (c) A strong electrolyte solution of NaCl causing the bulb to glow in bright light

Table salt, also known as Sodium Chloride (NaCl), is the most common example of the electrolyte. It is an ionic compound that dissociates into sodium and chloride ions when dissolved in water, according to the dissociation reaction:

NaCl (s) → {Na}^{+} (aq) + {Cl}^{-} (aq)

When a potential difference is applied across an aqueous solution of sodium chloride, the ions start to flow and results in an electric current in the opposite direction. Table salt is an important part of the human diet and has great physiological importance in our body. All known multicellular lifeforms require a subtle and complex electrolyte balance between the intracellular and extracellular environments. In particular, the maintenance of precise osmotic gradients of electrolytes is important. Such gradients affect and regulate the hydration of the body as well as blood pH, and are critical for nerve and muscle function Sodium and chloride, the major electrolytes in extracellular fluid, exert most of their influence outside the cell. While sodium greatly affects the extracellular fluid volume and allows the nerve cell and muscle to interact with each other, chlorine helps in maintaining the osmotic pressure of the fluid.

2. Ocean Water

Oceans are the biggest repository of minerals present on the planet earth. On average, ocean water has a salinity of about 3.5% (35 g/l, 35 ppt, 599 mM). This means that every kilogram (roughly one liter by volume) of seawater has approximately 35 grams of dissolved salts (predominantly sodium ({Na}^{+}) and chloride ({Cl}^{−}) ions). Depending on the depth from the surface level, ocean water is primarily profiled in three distinctly different layers of ocean water – Surface Sea Water, Deep Ocean Water (DOW), and Very Deep Ocean Water. Each layer remains separate and autonomous from the others, moving at different speeds and directions from different kinetic forces and having different temperatures, densities, and life form status. The topmost layer, surface seawater, is influenced by sunlight penetration and circulates rapidly in unison with the seasons and wind patterns to a depth of 250 meters. The most abundant dissolved electrolytes present in the surface seawater are the salts of sodium, chloride, magnesium, sulfate, and calcium. The middle layer is DOW where the water is free of sunlight. It is characterized not only by its mineral density but also due to its cold temperature, cleanliness, and the presence of trace elements. DOW is present at depths of between 250 and 1500 meters. DOW contains over 70 mineral nutrients and trace elements including dissolved electrolytes such as salts of magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), and potassium (K) in their bio ionic form. To extract these products, DOW is treated with microfiltration and reverse osmosis to desalinate and concentrate magnesium, other minerals, and trace elements whilst eliminating the salt (sodium chloride). Very deep ocean water has been discovered in a number of troughs in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Depths can range from 1500 meters to 15 kilometers and life forms are supported where volcanic processes bring heat and minerals to the seabed floor. There are numerous researches going around the world on the ocean water electrolytes that can help metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fat plus maintain bone, teeth, and muscle function. The electrolyte form facilitates body fluid activity in tissues to maintain fluid balance, acid-base balance, membrane permeability, tissue irritability (including nerve transmission and muscle contraction).

3. Sports Drinks

Sports drinks are special sports-themed functional beverages whose stated purpose is to help athletes replace water, electrolytes, and energy before, during, and especially after training or competition. These are also sold in the market by several brands under a common category of energy drinks. Athletes actively training and competing lose water and electrolytes by sweating and expending energy. These beverages are used to rehydrate the body with the lost nutrients. The most common electrolytes found in sports drinks are sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and bicarbonate ions. However, sports drinks also have a major concentration of sugar which is a nonelectrolyte. Therefore, it is advised to not consume sports drinks unless they have done strenuous physical work continually for 9 hours. Consuming sports drinks without exercising may lead to overweight and obesity problems. The purpose of electrolytes is to replenish the body with ions to carry throughout the body for muscle contractions and nerve impulses. Electrolytes are also a scientific term for “salts” and water is a better carrier for salts than any other liquid, so the effectiveness of what sports drinks advertise is unnecessary for normal bodily functions and may cause harm due to the high sugar content. Sports drinks are primarily categorized into three types: Isotonic, Hypertonic, and Hypotonic. Isotonic sports drinks contain similar concentrations of salt and sugar as in the human body. Hypertonic sports drinks contain a higher concentration of salt and sugar than the human body. Whereas, hypotonic sports drinks contain a lower concentration of salt and sugar than the human body.

4. Vinegar

Willy's Wellness GIF

Vinegar is another example of an electrolyte that can be found in the kitchen. Apart from providing the necessary flavor to the food, acetic acid present in vinegar is one of the few chemicals that can conduct electricity. When dissolved in water, acetic acid can dissociate into {CH}_{3}{COO}^{-} and {H}_{3}{O}^{+}. Thus, an aqueous solution of acetic acid is capable of conducting electricity. Nevertheless, acetic acid is a weak acid, and therefore, falls under the category of weak electrolytes. These properties of vinegar come in handy for someone trying to shed some extra bodyweight. . When you are following a low carb, keto lifestyle, your body changes how it handles electrolytes and water. A lot of it is excreted in the urine, which can cause electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. The imbalance of pH caused by the deficiency of potassium or magnesium in the body can cause muscle exhaustion.  Apple cider vinegar comprised of potassium and magnesium salts, along with acetic acid, helps rebalance your system by sending a dose of electrolytes to the bloodstream. This keeps your muscles running smoothly so you can work efficiently.

5. Lemon Juice

Lemons are a popular fruit that is used mostly to add flavor to food. It is popularly known for its intense sour taste that makes them hard to consume alone. Lemon juice is a characteristic ingredient in many pastries, desserts, and several famous drinks such as mojitos and lemonades. Lemon juice also contains several electrolytes that are essential for the human body. They’re a good source of potassium, calcium, and magnesium and have the ability to detoxify the liver, replenish the pH levels of blood, and boost the immune system with Vitamin C. However, lemon juice is considered a weak electrolyte as it contains citric acid in the majority, which is a weak acid. When dissolved in water, citric acid ({C}_{6}{H}_{8}{O}_{7}) dissociates into {C}_{6}{H}_{7}{O}_{7}^{-} and {H}^{+} ions. It is often advised to add lemon juice to your diet plan it has several medicinal properties that can prevent you from several serious medical conditions.

6. Detergent

We all are familiar with that one scoop of powder that we put in our washing machine to clean our laundry. A detergent is a compound that increases the cleansing properties of water by lowering its surface tension. A detergent is almost similar to the soap but has a slightly different chemical structure. They are usually a salt of organic compounds with a general structure {R-SO}_{4}^{-}, {Na}^{+}, where R is a long-chain alkyl group. However, detergents tend to be more soluble in hard water than soap because the sulfonate of detergent doesn’t bind calcium and other ions in hard water as easily as the carboxylate in soap does. When dissolved in water, they dissociate to form a soap anion and a cation. For instance, a detergent dissolves to form detergent anions and sodium cations. The following chemical equations show the ionization of sodium alkyl sulfate and sodium alkylbenzene sulphonate.


7. Car Batteries

A battery is a device consisting of a combination of one or more electrochemical cells. They are used for powering electrical devices such as flashlights, mobile phones, and electric cars. In cars, a battery consists of two electrodes that are isolated by a separator and soaked in an electrolyte to promote the movement of ions. Battery acid could refer to any acid used in a chemical cell or battery, but usually, this term describes the acid used in a lead-acid battery, such as those found in motor vehicles. A typical car battery consists of two lead plates separated by a gel or liquid that contains 30%- 50% sulphuric acid ({H}_{2}{SO}_{4}) in water. . The battery is rechargeable, with charging and discharging chemical reactions. When the battery is being used (discharged), electrons move from the negatively-charged lead plate to the positively-charged plate.

The reaction at the negative plate takes place as:

{Pb}(s) + {HSO}_{4}^{-}(aq) → {PbSO}_{4}(s) + {H}^{+}(aq) + 2{e}^{-}

The reaction at the positive plate takes place as:

{PbO}_{2}(s) + {HSO}_{4}^{-}+ 3{H}^{+}(aq) + {2 e}^{-}→ {PbSO}_{4}(s) + 2 {H}_{2}{O}(l)

When your mechanic tells you your battery’s electrolyte level is low, it means the electrolyte level in one or more of the battery cells has dropped below to a point where the reverse reaction forms lead sulfate on both plates. If the battery is fully discharged, the result is two identical lead sulfate plates, separated by water. At this point, the battery is considered completely dead and can’t recover or charged again.

8. Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS)

Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS), is an oral electrolyte used to replenish minerals and fluids in people suffering from dehydration, especially due to diarrhea. In comparison to sports drinks, ORS contains much fewer calories and does not contain sucrose at all, because sucrose has the potential to make diarrhea worse by drawing water into the intestine, increasing the risk of dehydration. However, the concentration of sodium and potassium salts in the oral rehydration solution is more than that of the sports drinks. Oral rehydration therapy was developed in the 1940s but did not come into common use until the late 1970s. After adding ORS to the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, WHO and UNICEF jointly have developed official guidelines for the manufacture of oral rehydration solution and the oral rehydration salts used to make it. They also describe acceptable alternative preparations, depending on material availability. One such alternative is known popularly by the name “Pedialyte.”  Apart from rehydrating children suffering from dehydration, Pedialyte has also become famous among athletes as an alternative to sports drinks. It has also become a popular drink for people suffering from hangovers, with one-third of its sales coming from adults.

9. Aluminum Capacitors


An aluminum capacitor is an electrolytic capacitor made of pure aluminum foil with an engraved surface. An electrolytic capacitor is a type of polarized capacitor that uses an electrolyte to achieve a larger capacitance than other capacitor types. An electrolyte is a liquid or gel containing a high concentration of ions. Aluminum electrolytic capacitors are made of two aluminum foils and a paper spacer soaked in electrolyte. One of the two aluminum foils forms a very thin insulating layer of aluminum oxide by anodization and acts as the anode of the capacitor, while the uncoated one acts as a cathode. During normal operation, the anode must be at a positive voltage in relation to the cathode, which is why the cathode is most commonly marked with a minus sign along the body of the capacitor. The anode, electrolyte-soaked paper, and cathode are stacked. The stack is rolled, placed into a cylindrical enclosure, and connected to the circuit using pins. There are two common geometries: axial and radial. Axial capacitors have one pin on each end of the cylinder, while in the radial geometry, both pins are located on the same end of the cylinder. The most commonly used electrolytes for such purpose are based on ethylene glycol and boric acid. Due to their very thin dielectric oxide layer and enlarged anode surface, electrolytic capacitors have a much higher capacitance-voltage (CV) product per unit volume than ceramic capacitors or film capacitors, and so can have large capacitance values. Nevertheless, the benefit of large capacitance in electrolytic capacitors comes with several drawbacks, such as large leakage currents, value tolerances, equivalent series resistance, and a limited lifetime.

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