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While editing a manuscript, I came across the following sentence.

However, Li–S batteries also show several serious defects, including poor conductivity, the large volume expansion (about 80%) of sulfur as cathode, and the shuttle effect of intermediate products (lithium polysulfides) during charge/discharge processes.

In the above sentence, do we need to add an article before "cathode", as it is a countable singular noun, or shall we leave it as such, because the emphasis is on "large volume expansion"?

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    I believe it should be at the cathode or in the cathode. – NibblyPig Jul 27 '16 at 14:23
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    In that case I would suggest large volume expansion of the sulfur cathode. – NibblyPig Jul 27 '16 at 14:32
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    I recommend, "However, Li–S batteries also show several serious defects, including poor conductivity, the large volume expansion (about 80%) of sulfur used as a cathode, and the shuttle effect of intermediate products (lithium polysulfides) during charge/discharge processes." – Mark Hubbard Jul 27 '16 at 14:48
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    Sulfur cathode sounds correct (if you are writing for an american audience, otherwise sulphur), but science question... sulphur is not a conductor, so how does it function as a cathode? – James K Jul 27 '16 at 15:51
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    "and large volume expansion of the sulfur (~80%) cathode" so just remove as and add the before sulfur – gattsbr Jul 27 '16 at 19:29
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You can omit the article sometimes before nouns that are describing generic roles that can apply to any situation. Articles try to answer the question "which" for a noun X, but in cases where nouns are used abstractly, this question doesn't need to be answered (because there is no X).

John as manager took great pride in his employee's work.

So here, we mean John as a manager in general. "Which manager" is not answered because it's not important to the speaker/writer. The speaker/writer is trying to convey you could stick John in any management role and he would take pride in his employee's work. Contrast with the below:

John as the manager took great pride in his employee's work.

which means John as a manager - which manager? - likely the one of his current workplace with his current employees. Here the question of "which manager" is answered (don't forget the relies on previous sentences/context to work).

So in your original sentence, sulfur is acting as a cathode, but not a cathode in a specific reaction or whatever.

| improve this answer | |
  • The above explanation has really given me a deep insight into the context. Thank you. – tosh Jul 28 '16 at 14:56
  • Difference between as a manager and as the manager please. – Anubhav Singh Aug 27 '16 at 12:05

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