The Butler–Volmer equation is one of the most fundamental relationships in electrochemical kinetics. It describes how the electrical current on an electrode depends on the electrode potential, considering that both a cathodic and an anodic reaction occur on the same electrode:
or in a more compact form:
- : electrode current, A
- : electrode active surface area, m2
- : electrode current density, A/m2 (defined as i = I/A)
- : exchange current density, A/m2
- : electrode potential, V
- : equilibrium potential, V
- : absolute temperature, K
- : number of electrons involved in the electrode reaction
- : Faraday constant
- : universal gas constant
- : so-called cathodic charge transfer coefficient, dimensionless
- : so-called anodic charge transfer coefficient, dimensionless
- : activation overpotential (defined as ).
The previous form of Butler–Volmer equation is valid when the electrode reaction is controlled by electrical charge transfer at the electrode (and not by the mass transfer to or from the electrode surface from or to the bulk electrolyte). Nevertheless, the utility of the Butler–Volmer equation in electrochemistry is wide, and it is often considered to be "central in the phenomenological electrode kinetics".
- D is the diffusion coefficient;
- δ is the diffusion layer thickness;
- C* is the concentration of the electroactive (limiting) species in the bulk of the electrolyte.
- C(0,t) is the time-dependent concentration at the distance zero from the surface.
The above form simplifies to the conventional one (shown at the top of the article) when the concentration of the electroactive species at the surface is equal to that in the bulk.
The limiting cases
There are two limiting cases of the Butler–Volmer equation:
- the low overpotential region (called "polarization resistance", i.e., when E ≈ Eeq), where the Butler–Volmer equation simplifies to:
- the high overpotential region, where the Butler–Volmer equation simplifies to the Tafel equation:
- for a cathodic reaction, when E << Eeq, or
- for an anodic reaction, when E >> Eeq
where a and b are constants (for a given reaction and temperature) and are called the Tafel equation constants. The theoretical values of a and b are different for the cathodic and anodic processes.
- Mayneord, W. V. (1979). "John Alfred Valentine Butler. 14 February 1899-16 July 1977". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 25: 144–126. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1979.0004.
- J. O'M. Bockris, A.K.N.Reddy, and M. Gamboa-Aldeco, "Modern Electrochemistry 2A. Fundamentals of Electrodics.", Second Edition, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, p.1083, 2000.