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topic 15622

Seeking activation for solder and electroless nickel

Current question and answers:

December 7, 2020

Q. Solder turns black and takes no Electroless Nickel.
I'm plating copper parts that have soldered plugs in them and when I get them back the solder is black with no Nickel over the Plugs. Any idea would be helpful.

david Psa
- san jose California
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Electroless nickel only deposits on materials that are catalytic to it like iron and nickel. To get it to deposit on copper, a typical down & dirty way is just to apply rectifier electricity to it for 2 or 3 seconds to get some nickel electrolytically deposited on the copper. Some people call this "sparking it" :-)

December 2020

A. Hi David. It probably depends a bit on the solder composition. If it has lead, heed Dave's suggestion that a fluoride acid activation is necessary. After that, you probably have to 'spark' it because the solder may not be catalytic to the nickel, and the copper is certainly not.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Previous closely related Q&A's starting in:


Q. I need activate a part for Electroless nickel plating that consists of the following substrates:

1. Electroless Nickel
2. Solder (88% Lead, 10% Tin, 2% Solder ^ Silver)
3. Nickel Beryllium (1/2H Brush Wellnan Alloy 360)

Currently, the solder does not plate.

William C. Carlson
- Coon Rapids, Minnesota


A. 2% silver maybe?

The only way is with fluorides. Fluoboric acid activator followed by Nickel fluoborate strike followed by your electroless. The big problem here is that the Lead is a catalytic poison for e-less Nickel process...so you have to cover it over with the strike first. Sounds like a unique application since commonly the nickel is deposited first. If contacting the part for a strike is impossible you may, with a bit of experimenting, convert the Tin/Lead/Silver surface using Palladium Chloride. This gives a great catalytic surface for E-less to take off on.

Dave Kinghorn
Dave Kinghorn
Chemical Engineer
SUNNYvale, California

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