Friday, 22 November 2013

How to Copper Plate a Nail

How to Copper Plate a Nail 

This is a simple experiment you can easily replicate at home using things you may find around the house. It's something people of all skill levels can do and can be a fun little experiment to do with the kids.



List of Materials 

  • Oxidised Copper -  copper coins or copper fittings, should be dull indicating it's oxidised 
  • Weak Acid Solution - white vinegar or lemon juice is best to see results 
  • Salt
  • A Glass container - best for seeing the results 
  • Wire wool* or other abrasive cleaner.
  • An iron nail - not galvanised.

Add copper to solution


Add Copper to Solution

Pour your weak acid solution (lemon juice or white vinegar) into your glass container and add a small amount of salt. Now add your oxidised copper to the solution. Remember to use dull copper, as this is an indication that it's oxidised. The more oxidised copper you add the more chance you have of better results. Leave the solution to stand for at least 10 minutes.

Clean iron nail

Add lemon juice


Copper Plating Iron

While you wait it's a good idea to use your time to clean your iron nail. Clean off the top layer using your wire wool. This will reveal the shiny surface and remove any impurities. Remember to give it a quick wipe when you've finished cleaning to remove any residual dirt. Once ten minutes has passed add a drop or two of fresh acid solution (vinegar or lemon juice which ever your using). Now add the iron nail and leave it at least half an hour or longer. I find swilling the solution around helps speed up the process.

Copper Plate a Nail


Giving an Iron Nail a Copper Coat 

Peering into the glass you should be able to see that the nail has changed colour. On closer inspection you can see that the iron nail now has a partial copper coating.

The lemon juice and white vinegar are weak acids, which is why the wait times are slightly long. If your acidic level is higher you may find that your wait times are reduced. The more oxidised copper you add to the solution, the more copper ions can be suspended in the solution.

Rinse off your nail and copper after use to stop them discolouring. Also don't forget to pour the solution away and clean the glass before reuse.
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