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Nickel plating on aluminum contains phosphorous

⇦ (tip: readers rarely show much interest in abstract questions, but people's actual situations usually prompt responses)   smiley face

Q. I am convinced that a part I ordered was incorrectly plated. They claim to have electroplated the aluminum substrate with nickel. However, when I do Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy with the SEM, I am reading 10% phosphorus within the nickel layer. I believe this alone is enough proof that electroless plating was done instead. Is there any other way I can prove that it had been electroplated? Would there be any residual zinc from the initial immersion plating? Also are there any electroplating processes that may have an inclusion of Phosphorus? In my mind, it appears to be impossible since phosphorus has negatively charged ions. Any insight at all would be appreciated.

Michael Greene
- Los Angeles
March 29, 2023

A. Hi Michael. It is possible to electroplate nickel phosphorous -- please search the site for "electroplating nickel phosphorous" to read about some of the applications, which include radioactive doping.

That does not mean, of course, that the component you are looking at was electroplated; it sounds more likely that it was electrolessly plated based on the simple statistic that probably well over 99% of nickel phosphorous is done electrolessly.
Zincate or a substitute like bondal or stannate would be necessary in either case.

But why does it matter to you? Is the phosphorous a problem? Please don't keep the posting dry & abstract, but tell us who you are, what is going on, and why you are unhappy with what you received. Thanks!
Luck & Regards,

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

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