451. The great distinction of the electricities obtained from these two sources is the very high tension to which the small quantity obtained by aid of the machine may be raised, and the enormous quantity (371. 376.) in which that of comparatively low tension, supplied by the voltaic battery, may be procured; but as their actions, whether magnetical, chemical, or of any other nature, are essentially the same (360.), it appeared evident that we might reason from the former as to the manner of action of the latter; and it was, to me, a probable consequence, that the use of electricity of such intensity as that afforded by the machine, would, when applied to effect and elucidate electro-chemical decomposition, show some new conditions of that action, evolve new views of the internal arrangements and changes of the substances under decomposition, and perhaps give efficient powers over matter as yet undecomposed.
452. For the purpose of rendering the bearings of the different parts of this series of researches more distinct, I shall divide it into several heads.
P i. New conditions of Electro-chemical Decomposition.
453. The tension of machine electricity causes it, however small in quantity, to pass through any length of water, solutions, or other substances classing with these as conductors, as fast as it can be produced, and therefore, in relation to quantity, as fast as it could have passed through much shorter portions of the same conducting substance. With the voltaic battery the case is very different, and the passing current of electricity supplied by it suffers serious diminution in any substance, by considerable extension of its length, but especially in such bodies as those mentioned above.
454. I endeavoured to apply this facility of transmitting the current of electricity through any length of a conductor, to an investigation of the transfer of the elements in a decomposing body, in contrary directions, towards the poles. The general form of apparatus used in these experiments has been already described (312. 316); and also a particular experiment (319.), in which, when a piece of litmus paper and a piece of turmeric paper were combined and moistened in solution of sulphate of soda, the point of the wire from the machine (representing the positive pole) put upon the litmus paper, and the receiving point from the discharging train (292. 316.), representing the negative pole, upon the turmeric paper, a very few turns of the machine sufficed to show the evolution of acid at the former, and alkali at the latter, exactly in the manner effected by a volta-electric current.