The ability of an ion to get oxidized or reduced depends upon the size, mass, positive charge, negative charge etc. Thus, it is not possible to predict qualitatively that which ion would be discharged first, as one factor might enhance the ability to discharge while the other factor may hamper it. For a cation, the Standard Reduction Potential (SRP) values are compared. The cation having higher standard reduction potential value is discharged in preference to cation with lower SRP value provided the ions are at 1 M concentration. For an anion, the standard oxidation potential (SOP) values are compared and anion having higher SOP is preferentially discharged, if the concentration is 1 M for each of the ion. When solution of an electrolyte contains more than one type of cations and anions at concentrations different from 1 M, the discharge of an ion does not depend solely on standard potentials but also depends on the concentration of ion in the solution. This value is referred as potential, called as reduction potential for cation and oxidation potential for anion. The relation between reduction potential and standard reduction potential is given by Nernst equation, as
where ERP = Reduction potential of cation and Standard reduction potential of cation.
Thus, it is possible that a cation (A+) with lower standard reduction potential getting discharged in preference to cation (B+) having higher standard reduction potential because their concentrations might be such that the reduction potential of A+ is higher than that of B+.
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