We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is the Difference Between Cathodes and Anodes?

By T. L. Childree
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At EasyTechJunkie, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Cathodes and anodes are types of electrodes that conduct electrical currents either into or out of an electrical device. A cathode typically acts as a positively charged terminal while an anode usually functions as a negatively charged terminal. Anodes and cathodes will sometimes function in reverse polarity in certain types of devices. As a general rule, when a device is discharging electricity, the current flows out of the cathode terminal. When a device is being charged with electricity, the current flows into the cathode causing it to function as the anode while the anode functions as the cathode.

Electrodes used as cathodes and anodes are typically found in any device that either consumes or provides electrical current. The cathode and anode designations of electrodes are typically used as a means to identify their polarity during the most common application of a device. Cathodes and anodes with non-reversible polarity can be found in devices such as disposable batteries, and semiconductor diodes. Those with reversible polarity are typically found in rechargeable batteries and cathode ray tubes.

The cathode and anode terminals of a disposable battery are non-reversible because the device is only used to discharge electrical current. In a disposable battery, the cathode terminal is always positive and the anode is always negative. The cathodes and anodes of rechargeable batteries are reversible because this device can be used to receive as well as discharge electrical current. When this type of battery is being recharged, the usually positive cathode becomes negative and the usually negative anode becomes positive.

In a cathode ray tube, the negative cathode terminal emits rays of negative electrons inside of a glass vacuum tube, which are then attracted by the positive anode inside the tube. After reaching the anode, the electrons are then focused by another electrode known as a focusing anode. Once the electrons have been focused, the are then accelerated by yet another electrode called an accelerating anode. After the electron rays have been focused and accelerated, they are sent to the screen portion of the vacuum tube in order to create the image that is seen.

In semiconductor diodes, electrical current enters the device by means of the negative cathode terminal and then exits through the positive anode terminal. Since diodes carry electrical current in only one direction, the polarity of the cathode and diode terminals does not change. This unchanging polarity configuration applies to all types of diodes, including solar cells and zenar-type diodes.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By SkyWhisperer — On Aug 01, 2011

@Mammmood - I wouldn’t waste time with the alkaline battery chargers myself. From what I’ve read you never really get the full charge of the battery, the same as you would with a lithium rechargeable battery - and you have to charge the batteries frequently before they totally lose their power.

Rechargeable batteries have come down in price, so I would stick with them if you need to reuse your batteries a lot.

By Mammmood — On Jul 31, 2011

I didn’t realize that the cathode vs. anode polarities can change depending on the circumstance. I used to use regular batteries for years for my small transistor radio.

I finally got tired of buying new batteries all the time so I bought some lithium rechargeable batteries. They were expensive, but cheaper over the long haul. I didn’t know that when the batteries were being charged the polarities flipped.

Recently, however, I saw this device that claimed to charge even regular alkaline batteries – not just those that were rechargeable. I’m not sure about the difference between the two kinds of batteries, but I think it would be safe to assume that the alkaline charger might try to charge the batteries using their existing polarities, given that they are non reversible according to this article.

EasyTechJunkie, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

EasyTechJunkie, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.