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topic 7758

Electroplating Aluminum onto Aluminum


Q. I am looking for information regarding the electroplating of aluminum onto an aluminum substrate in a non-aqueous solution. A colleague indicated that he had read about this process some years ago.

Any info or leading references would be helpful.

Christopher Feger
- Liberty, South Carolina


A. There is a company that is electroplating aluminum, but I don't know if they can plate it on aluminum. I would suggest you look at Ion Vapor Deposition (IVD) of aluminum instead. You can probably find a company near you that can do the job.

jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio
PVD Consultant - San Diego, California


A. To my knowledge there is one (count 'em) shop in the world that commercially electroplates aluminum, and it does involve non-aqueous electrolytes, and sealing out air from the process; so this is not something that you casually up and do.

As Jim says, aluminum is usually deposited by IVD, and in fact it's a common practice to deposit pure aluminum onto lower purity alloys by IVD.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey


A. Mr. Feger - IVD is NOT the only option to get an aluminum coating. There are many processes to "aluminize":

--Hot Dipping
--Flame Spray

The method used to achieve an aluminum coating will depend on what your component is (i.e, cladding is typically used in the aerospace industry for large sheets), and what your specifications are for the layer, etc.

The company you are looking for is us (not the only company in the world, but one of only a couple).

Brenda L. Struck
AlumiPlate, Inc. - Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Need to deposit pure aluminum on AA2024 aluminum alloy samples

December 13, 2013

Q. Hi everyone,

I'm a student working on a project with the goal to study shot-peened AA2024-T351 (aluminum-copper alloy) samples.

We use the Electron Backscatter Electron (EBSD) technique to observe the deformation of the grain substructure beneath the shot-peened surface (the area of interest is then a cross-section of the sample), but the results (indexation rate) were not always good. In order to enhance the quality of the diffraction patterns, an idea of my supervisor is to coat the samples with pure aluminum (a few µm only) to avoid an eventual edge effect occurring around the impingements. The dimension of the surface to be coated is typically of the order of 10 mm x 10 mm.

I tried to get some information all over the internet and further :), and I found this thread!

ASM Metals Handbook
0-15V 0-5A

In fact, I discovered that the electroplating of aluminum is not famous, but found on the ASM Handbooks Online that it seems possible (like Brenda L. Struck wrote). On their site, if you go for:

Volume 5 > Surface Engineering of Nonferrous Metals > Surface Engineering of Aluminum and Aluminum Alloys > Electroplating

You can find the table below in the article (featuring Aluminum-copper alloys):

Metal				Potential, mV(a) 
Magnesium -850 Zinc -350 Cadmium -20 to 0 Aluminum (pure) 0 Aluminum-magnesium alloys +100 Aluminum-copper alloys +150 Iron, low-carbon steel +50 to 150 Tin +300 Brass +500 Nickel +500 Copper +550 Silver +700 Stainless steel +400 to 700 Gold +950

Well, but it don't give anything on the process of the aluminum electroplating on Al-alloys, and like you said, guys, it don't seem to be the good way.

But concerning the IVD, I didn't find anything on the matter in the ASM Handbooks for the Al-Cu alloys, nor in the ASTM standards.

Is IVD the best solution for my samples?
Has anyone any precise references on the subject of getting a pure aluminum coating on aluminum alloys?

I will also try the references of Brenda L. Struck.

Thank for reading and I hope it will be useful for further students :)

Robin Lebon
Student at Ecole de Technologie SupErieure - Montreal, QC, Canada

December 13, 2013

A. Hi Robin. The subchapter you quote from ASM Metals Handbook, Vol. 5 is indeed about electroplating ONTO aluminum, and it does not seem to offer anything on ELECTRODEPOSITION OF aluminum. Each half of the proposition has its quirks because:
1). Electroplating of anything onto aluminum presents difficulties because of the instantaneous formation of aluminum oxides on the aluminum substrate. The most common solution is an immersion deposit of zincate, followed by electroless (autocatalytic) nickel plating, followed by whatever type of plating you seek for the top layer. The handbook addresses this half of the problem well.
2). Electrodeposition of aluminum is difficult because you cannot use aqueous baths -- the applied electricity hydrolyzes the water into hydrogen gas and hydroxide ion instead of depositing aluminum. You are limited to plating from fused salts or the previously mentioned patented organic solution.

While we perhaps could find some stuff about electrodeposition of aluminum for you, it might be such a large research project as to derail you from your present goal. I would suggest that consider simply contracting out the IVD coating of your samples to a jobshop. I'm quite sure that IVD is the best solution to the problem you have presented. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

December 16, 2013

thumbs up signOk, good! So I will follow your advice with the IVD coating.

Thank you very much for responding ;)

Robin Lebon
Student at Ecole de Technologie Superieure - Montreal, QC, Canada

December 16, 2013

A. IVD is ok, but the coating will have an open structure, and is usually relatively thick. Given that this is an experiment, and you have small samples, suggest you look into sputtering. Sputtered aluminum will be much denser, and it will be easier to find someone in a university that will coat the samples for you. I know they have suitable equipment at the University of Illinois, Colorado School of Mines, UCLA, and Michigan, to name a few sites. You can also check with your local chapter of the American Vacuum Society.

jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio
- San Diego, California

December 17, 2013

thumbs up signThanks Jim. I gratefully yield to your knowledge of vacuum coating processes.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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