Cyclic voltammetry

Cyclic voltammetry is a known method of demonstrating the presence of a substance in a given liquid by drawing a graph with a characteristic wavy line. The graph has a typical, recognizable form in which the electron flow (current: i) is measured in Volt against the potential (E).

Video: cyclic voltammertry explained

Our contributor Lutz Stratman explains how cyclic voltammetry works using examples. He also shows how to apply cyclic voltammetry in an electrochemical experiment.

Cyclic voltammetry graph (or voltammogram)

The typical shape of cyclic voltammetry (Figure 1) is due to the way in which an electrochemical experiment is usually set up. There are roughly two groups of measurements that are plotted as voltammograms: pulsed techniques and linear sweeps. The focus of this topic is linear sweep.

Figure 1 | Cyclic voltammetry

The typical shape of a voltammogram roughly consists of four phases that represent an electrochemical reaction in your experiment. We explain each phase separately below.


Exponentially upward trend

In order to investigate the presence of a particular substance in a liquid, a potential is applied to an electrode in the liquid by means of a potentiostat. This potential is increased linearly by a fixed increase per period of time. 

The potential of the electrode will cause the substance to react. The initial cathodic (negative), where no reaction took place, turns into a more anodic (positive) potential. The electrode starts to draw electrons from the substance in the liquid towards itself. The curve now shows an exponentially upward trend, i.e. with increasing potential the current increases.


The curve levels off and reaches its highest point

After reaching the so-called redox potential, the initial exponential rise of the curve levels off. The cause being the decreasing amount of substance in front of the electrode, which also results in a lack of electrons, until eventually no electrons are left to draw close. The curve is at its highest point.


The curve drops

The potential is still being increased towards anodic (positive) potentials. Still the current is decreasing, because there is less and less substance left to collect.

Due to diffusion substance is transported towards the electrode. All substance that reaches the electrode is immediately converted. A further increase of potential doesn’t lead to an increase of current. The current is limited by the diffusion of new substance towards the electrode.


Lower curve

There is no reason to increase the potential any further. In case of Cyclic Voltammetry the potential descend linearly again. This drop in potential causes the lower curve, that shows exactly the same gradient as the upper curve of the voltammogram, but then reversed.

The substance, which was converted during the anodic increase will now be reduced (receiving electrons) again

Voltammogram equipment

Cyclic voltammetry is the result of an electrochemical experiment that can be performed with a potentiostat. Palmsens BV developed a broad range of potentiostats that can be used in the field of electrochemistry. You can choose from:

Cyclic voltammetry analysis software

In order to analyse cyclic voltammetry you need dedicated software. All PalmSens potentiostats are delivered with a full version of the software with integrated analysis tools.

  • Our single channel instruments can be controlled via a PC (PSTrace) or Smartphone/Tablet (PStouch).
  • Our multichannel instruments can be controlled via MultiTrace
Cyclic voltammetry
A method of demonstrating the presence of a substance in a given liquid by drawing a graph with a characteristic wavy line. The graph has a typical, recognizable form in which the electron flow (current: I) is measured in Ampere against the potential (E) in Volt.

Article series 'Cyclic Voltammetry – the Most Used Technique'

For readers who want to understand more about cyclic voltammetry, we published a series of four articles on this electrochemical technique. In these articles, we delve deeper into the subject and discuss some experiments using cyclic voltammetry.

  1. Cyclic Voltammetry: An introduction
  2. Cyclic Voltammetry: What is a cyclic voltammogram?
  3. Cyclic Voltammetry: What information can a CV provide?
  4. Cyclic Voltammetry: Investigation of Catalytic Processes

In addition, we offer some PDFs with actual experimental experiments in which cyclic voltammetry is used.

  1. Cyclic Voltammetry – Theoretical Experiments
  2. Cyclic Voltammetry – Investigation of a Gold Surface
  3. Cyclic Voltammetry – Ferrocene-carboxylic Acid as a Mediator