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Electroplating Copper onto Aluminum

(-----) 2007

Q. Hi

I'm a Gr. 12 student in Ontario, Canada and am interested in setting up an electroplating lab for my chemistry class. Considering that copper and aluminum are relatively inexpensive materials to come by, I decided to electroplate copper onto aluminum.

I have a basic understanding of how the electroplating will work, it's just the details that boggle my mind! Do you have any ideas on how I could go about setting up this lab, including the amount of electricity, the length of time of the various stages, the bath solution I'll be needing and any hazards that I should be aware of? Are there any tips that you think could apply here? If we can get this to work as a class lab, this would be an indispensable method of getting some hard chemistry concepts through the minds of students such as myself, cheap and hopefully easy!

Any help is greatly appreciated!

Cherri E.
Student - Mississauga, Ontario, Canada


A. We have FAQs on electroplating for students, Cherri. Please start there for some of the details.

You'll see that we recommend electroplating zinc onto brass or copper, or copper onto silver-colored coins. Your project of plating copper onto aluminum is not exceptionally difficult from a technical standpoint, but it is perhaps not appropriate for high school because it is best done with chemicals that mustn't be used in school like cyanide-based chemicals. Good luck.

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


A. Probably the simplest language for a plating reference book is "Electroplating" by Lowenheim. Do not get his Modern Electroplating as it is for professionals. Your library should be able to get this book on an interlibrary loan for 2 weeks. There are a couple of other books that are not terribly technical, but I do not think they are as good.

For a quick and dirty look at it, try Wikipedia on your computer.

PS, aluminum is not easy for a beginner to plate on, so avoid it.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

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