Thursday, August 23, 2007

The New Old Wonders of Electrodes

Author: James Monahan

Unless you are paid attention during science class or are mainstay of science fairs, the term electrode will seem fairly faraway to you. Some people even think that electrodes belong only in science fiction as some sort of name for a weapon or an engine.

But in reality, electrodes are an everyday reality. It is so common that when you hold anything with a battery, you are in effect holding electrodes too.

The term electrode was coined by the great English scientist Michael Faraday. Faraday conducted early experiments on electricity and conductivity. His discoveries opened the path for the study of this branch of science.

Faraday called the positively charged electrode the anode and the negatively charged electrode the cathode.

Electrodes are components in an electrical circuitry that connects that circuitry to a conducting material. That material could be liquid chemical, gas or any other conductive medium.

You will find electrodes in the most common electronic devices - batteries, television, and even lamps.

Batteries have carbon anodes and zinc cathodes. These electrodes connect to a chemical solution that produces electricity.

Televisions, radios and radars make use of electron tubes. Electron tubes have electrodes within a glass tube that usually contains mercury gas. These tubes are used to manipulate electric current and electric signals.

In televisions, electrodes are present in the CRT, or cathode ray tube. CRT's have a cathode that is heated to release electrons.

An electron gun shoots these electrons into phosphor dots that line the television screen. These dots glow as they come in contact with the electrons therefore creating an image.

Electrodes prove to be very useful in medical applications.

Diathermy, for example, makes use of electrodes. Diathermy is the generation of heat in the tissues of a body through the use of electrode that conduct electrical currents to the skin.

This treatment is used to treat pain due to arthritis. Diathermy is also used in surgery to cut tissues, coagulate, or kill cells without inducing much bleeding.

Pacemakers also make use of electrodes. These electrodes are connected to heart muscles to deliver electrical pulses when the heart rate falls below a specified value. This forces the heart muscles to contract and maintain the proper heart rate.

EEGs or Electroencephalograms, and EKGs or Electrocardiograms make use of electrodes connected to a patient's body to monitor their respective vital signs.

EEGs record a patient's brain activity. It represents it using wave patterns on a roll of paper. In EEGs, the electrodes are connected to skin over the skull. The information it records is used to diagnose neurological disorders and determine whether a person is already brain dead.

EKGs on the other hand have electrodes that are attached to various parts of the body. It records the heart activity and is instrumental in diagnosing heart ailments.

Electrodes even find their place in the welding industry. Arc welding involves the use of electrodes to generate intense heat to weld metals together. This type of welding is very effective due to the high concentration of heat generated between the electrodes of the welding machines.

In every industry, there is a use for electrodes. It is one of the earliest yet most used inventions in the history of mankind. Man is forever looking for way to take advantage of it, and will continue to do so for a long time to come.

About the author: James Monahan is the owner and Senior Editor of and writes expert articles about electrodes .


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