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Question
Hi,

Why does electrostatic charge accumulation in voltaic cell of copper and zinc impede electrochemical flow?  Is it because the excess negative charge accumulating in copper plate/solution repels electrons (because copper is pulling electrons from zinc plate)?  

Thanks

Answer
If the electrostatic charge that builds up is of the same sign as the ions in the fluid flowing toward the electrode, then of course the flow will be impeded.  This phenomenon is easily heard when a Van de Graaf generator spools up to full voltage, and is very similar.  The electrostatic force is tremendously powerful.  Even though the strong force (137 times stronger) is responsible for reconfiguring the nuclei in atoms that split, the force that propels the two main fission products apart once split and gives a nuclear weapon its power is electrostatic repulsion.  So the ions which are repelled will definitely drag on the portion of the fluid that is not charged, and impede fluid flow.

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Dr. Stephen O. Nelson

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I can answer most basic physics questions, physics questions about science fiction and everyday observations of physics, etc. I'm also usually good for science fair advice (I'm the regional science fair director). I do not answer homework problems. I will occasionally point out where a homework solution went wrong, though. I'm usually good at explaining odd observations that seem counterintuitive, energy science, nuclear physics, nuclear astrophysics, and alternative theories of physics are my specialties.

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I was a physics professor at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, research in nuclear technology and nuclear astrophysics. My travelling science show saw over 20,000 students of all ages. I taught physics, nuclear chemistry, radiation safety, vacuum technology, and answer tons of questions as I tour schools encouraging students to consider careers in science. I moved on to a non-academic job with more research just recently.

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Ph. D. from Duke University in physics, research in nuclear astrophysics reactions, gamma-ray astronomy technology, and advanced nuclear reactors.

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