When a cell reaction takes place in an electrochemical cell, the electrical energy generated by the cell can be quantitatively converted into work. So, the EMF of the cell is a measure of the maximum useful work that can be obtained under standard conditions. However, the electrical energy (electrical work) is equal to the product of EMF of the cell and the electrical charge that flows through the external circuit.
WMax = nFEcell
Where n = Number of moles of electrons transferred through the wire
F = one faraday i.e. 96500 coulombs
Ecell = EMF of the cell
According to thermodynamics, the free energy change (DG) for a process is equal to the maximum work that can be derived from a cell. Now since in a voltaic cell, work is done on the surroundings as electrical energy flows through the external circuit, such work by convention is taken as negative. Hence,
– WMax = DG
Therefore, from above equations we get
DG = – n F E0cell
The equation helps us to predict the feasibility of the cell reaction. For a cell reaction to be spontaneous, DG must be negative. This means that E must be positive for a spontaneous cell reaction.
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