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topic 9794

Magnesium plating with Epsom salts?


Q. I would like to know if it is possible to do electroplating with Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate heptahydrate). I tried this experiment with an anode made from aluminum (since I had no magnesium) and a cathode made from copper. The result was that the aluminum was dissolved and that the copper was covered with a white film (it was not a metallic film).

Thank You,

Nicolas Geoffroy
- Repentigny, QuÈbec, Canada


A. Magnesium and aluminum are both very active metals that cannot be plated out of epsom salts or any other aqueous solution. You may have achieved some marginal anodization of the aluminum however by making it as an anode in a conductive solution.

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


Q. What is the best way to finish plate magnesium onto another metal or a plastic? I heard that a nickel striking is sometimes done to the plastic surface before electroplating any metal. Knowing that magnesium is highly reactive is it safe to even attempt electroplating with magnesium? What is your advice?

Edward T. Reininger
School Science Project - LaCrescenta, California


A. It's not a question of safety, Edward, Epsom salts is a very safe form of magnesium to work with. The problem is that it just can't be done. All of the electricity you put in will go solely to converting water into hydrogen and oxygen because magnesium is so electrochemically active, that it fights reduction to metallic form more powerfully than the hydrogen.

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

May 20, 2012

Q. How about copper plating?

David Elliott
- Mize, Mississippi, USA

May 21, 2012

A. Hi David.

How about it? What are you asking? Yes, epsom salt can be used in science-projects involving copper plating, if that is what you were asking. Please see our FAQ "How Electroplating Works".


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

Making magnesium with magnesium hydroxide and charcoal

September 8, 2014

Q. Dear sir,
I would like to know how to convert:
1. magnesium hydroxide to magnesium (electrochemically and using wood charcoal)
2. magnesium chloride to magnesium (electrochemically and using wood charcoal)
Kindly help me with your valuable advice.

kailasa nathan T N
- kollam, kerala, india

Magnesium Chloride

September 2014

A. Hi cousin Kailasa. I'd like to know how to convert oatmeal to gold, but I realize it isn't actually possible :-)
What is it that leads you to believe that wood charcoal will help you electrochemically reduce magnesium ions to magnesium metal? You may be right, but sorry, I'm not familiar with it and am not seeing it.

As far as I know, you need to get the magnesium chloride hot enough to fuse (melt), i.e., above 714 °C, before you can go on to step 2. And magnesium can be flammable, while electrolyzing the magnesium chloride emits a lot of poisonous chlorine gas, compounding the problem. I think manufacturing magnesium metal is quite difficult, but best of luck.


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

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