1. When did you first learn about this topic?
This a very important topic to chemists. I started to learn about it in a high school chemisty class, then studied different aspects of it again for three years of college.
2. What motivated you to study this topic?
I wanted to be a chemist very badly. This topic is highly related to how and why two chemicals react when they are brought together, the very essence of chemistry.
3. What are some of the most important things you have learned about this topic?
The voltage across the cell is a measure of how much the cell reactions want to occur.
Check out Lechatlier’s Principle , Gibbs Free Energy , Thermodynamics, Standard Half Cell Potentials, and on and on.
4. Why do you think this topic is important, useful, and/or important?
Have you ever had a car battery fail to start your car? It is usually on a very cold day.
5. What practical applications have you found for this topic?
One can figure out how much work or heat you can get out of a battery or reaction under various conditions, or what voltage it will produce. Also see answer to 4, and how you might get the car to start (by warming up the battery).
6.What metals do you think would work the best for the cathode and anode and why?
Zinc and copper are a practical choice. If you could avoid water and properly construct the cell, cesium and flourine would produce a lot more energy. Look into a table of standard half cell potentials to explore other choices. Notice that you could even get a voltage & current out of a cell with both anode and cathode made of the same metal as long as the salt concentrations were different at the two electrodes.
7. What temperature do you think the cell will work best at? (i have heard that it works best at colder temperatures, but i am not sure)
To develop a feel for this I recommend playing with a Nerst equation simulator here:http://www.nernstgoldman.physiology.arizona.edu/
8. Could this be a practical source of energy?
See this for some history of practical uses:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniell_cell
When I toured the telephone company in grade school many years ago they had a room of Daniell cell batteries for emergency backup power for the city phone system.
9. Does the cell produce more electricity if the water has more salt in it?
These cells produce more electricity if the ion concentrations are very different at the two electrodes.
10. Will this cell produce more than it consumes?
More what? It typically consumes electrode material to produce electricity. Electrons are conserved. Mass of each element is conserved, though metals are usually converted to ions or ions converted to metal.
This is a extremely interesting subject, and the farther you burrow into it the more interesting it becomes.
I hope this helps.
Barrettt K Tomlinson