Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/262

This page has been validated.
250
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

trically neutral. This makes almost no difference in the value of the electro-motive force. For instance, if chlorine is separated at the anode it will remain at first absorbed by the liquid; if the solution becomes saturated, or if we make a vacuum over the liquid, the gas will rise in bubbles. The electro-motive force remains unaltered. The same may be observed with all the other gases. You see in this case that the change of electrically negative chlorine into neutral chlorine is the process which requires so great an amount of work, even if the ponderable matter of the atoms remains where it was.

The more the surface of the positive electrode is covered with negative atoms of the anion and the negative with the positive ones of the cation, the more the attracting force of the electrodes exerted upon the ions of the liquid is diminished by this second stratum of opposite electricity covering them. On the contrary, the force with which the positive electricity of an atom of hydrogen is attracted toward the negatively charged metal increases in proportion as more negative electricity collects before it on the metal and the more negative electricity collects behind it in the fluid.

Such is the mechanism by which electric force is concentrated and increased in its intensity to such a degree that it becomes able to overpower the mightiest chemical affinities we know of. If this can be done by a polarized surface, acting like a condenser, charged by a very moderate electro-motive force, can the attractions between the enormous electric charges of anions and cations play an unimportant and indifferent part in chemical affinity?

You see, therefore, if we use the language of the dualistic theory and treat positive and negative electricities as two substances, the phenomena are the same as if equivalents of positive and negative electricity were attracted by different atoms, and perhaps also by the different values of affinity belonging to the same atom, with different force. Potassium, sodium, zinc, must have strong attraction to a positive charge; oxygen, chlorine, bromine, to a negative charge.

Faraday very often recurs to this to express his conviction that the forces termed chemical affinity and electricity are one and the same. I have endeavored to give you a survey of the facts in their mutual connection, avoiding, as far as possible, introducing other hypotheses, except the atomic theory of modern chemistry. I think the facts leave no doubt that the very mightiest among the chemical forces are of electric origin. The atoms cling to their electric charges and the opposite electric charges cling to the atoms. But I don't suppose that other molecular forces are excluded, working directly from atom to atom. Several of our leading chemists have begun lately to distinguish two classes of compounds, molecular aggregates and typical compounds. The latter are united by atomic affinities, the former not. Electrolytes belong to the latter class.

If we conclude from the facts that every unit of affinity of every