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Electroplating ping pong balls for science project

I am a teacher at our Jr. High and my son in high school wants to continue a science fair project from last year. He made a flood warning device to set off a emergency flasher at flooded low water crossings. He covered a ping-pong ball with foil and had a 2nd one beneath it in a PVC pipe with holes so when the pipe filled with water, the balls floated and made contact with the inside of a flashlight to set the flasher off. Now he would like to electroplate the ball to see if it weathers better. He has asked for help in several places, but we haven't gotten responses. Can anyone give helpful hints that maybe the high school chemistry teacher could help him to do or is there a company in the Houston area that might electroplate a ping-pong ball for him. Or does anyone know of a place where you could get a hollow metal ball about the size of a ping pong ball light enough to float made - like within a couple of weeks? We would love some advice. Thanks

Linda Heathcott

I would metallize them with conductive paint made for the purpose by such firms as Acheson Colloids [Port Huron, MI]. Then you could try copper plating them out of a copper sulphate [on eBay or Amazon affil link]plating solution. A result not quite as pretty, but more environmentally conscious, could probably be obtained by plating copper (from a piece of wire) out of a solution of vinegar [in bulk on eBay or Amazon affil links], epsom salt [affil link], and sugar.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey



My reply is rather late. Sorry!

One idea is to spray paint the table tennis ball. Ideally, clean the ball first of all with some light solvent and then carefully sand it a bit ... why? ... because the roughened surface will allow the paint to stick better.

As to the type of paint, ah, I guess a true solvent type would be best. T.T. balls are still, I'm sure, made of that lovely but dangerous plastic called Cellulose Nitrate. Try burning one!

If you used a lacquer type paint, it should stick pretty well.Even if you didn't, the paint would stick to itself. I assume your tests are for u.v. stability?

Anyhow, that's an idea you could perhaps try out.

Cheers !

freeman newton portrait
Freeman Newton [deceased]
(It is our sad duty to advise that Freeman passed away
April 21, 2012. R.I.P. old friend).

Check out Naugatuck Mfg. They make metal, spherical floats. Should be able to get exactly what you want.

Ed Manuel
- Houston, Texas

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