Instructables
Picture of Make Silver-Colored Pennies!
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This guide will show you how to transform boring old pennies into shiny silvery wonders! The method of choice is, in this case, electrochemistry. Specifically, this Instructable will use electroplating to put the shine on your moolah. In other words, we will coat a normal penny in a thin layer of zinc metal and then shine it to a sparkle.

This is an alternative method for making silver pennies. Other methods include:

  • Using sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and zinc metal to coat the penny
  • Using zinc sulfate and zinc metal to place a zinc layer on top of the penny
  • Other variants of electroplating

As for difficulty, this experiment is fairly easy and can be completed with stuff you've most likely got at home. After the overnight preparation, this experiment will take less than an hour. Enough talk, let's begin!

 
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Step 1: Bill of Materials

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As stated above, you really don't need much to do this fun chemistry experiment. You might even have everything at home, right now. You will need:

Expendables:

  • Normal pennies (try to get the cleanest, shiniest ones possible)
  • Common household vinegar
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Paper towels
  • Zinc metal:
    • You could get this by taking the non-magnetic metal casing from a dry cell battery (non-alkaline; usually labelled Super Duty or Heavy Duty) and cleaning it with soap and water
    • Zinc metal can also be obtained by melting pennies from after 1982 in a soup can (use a roaring campfire, a regular stove, a metal-casting furnace, or a propane torch) and then scooping off the dross (junk and slag) on top using a spoon or flathead screwdriver. Pour the molten metal into a blob on some dry sand. Always wear safety goggles and any other safety gear you deem appropriate.
    • Alternatively you could get zinc from a chemical supplier; if you get powdered zinc, you will need to melt some into a blob/ingot using one of the above methods for step 4

Tools:

  • Small beaker or glass
  • Alligator clips (2)
  • Clothespins or tape
  • Power source: 3.3V power supply, or a wall wart charger rated at ~3.3V (using AA batteries did not work for me)
cwm975 months ago
Or why not heat the zinc coated penny over a burner, it'll turn gold!
PopsicleGhoul (author)  cwm975 months ago
I believe I said this somewhere in the Instructable, but this method of zinc-coating a penny produces a heavy-duty, thick coating of zinc, where some other methods make a very thin layer. I tried heating pennies from this experiment, but they only tarnished (no gold color), because the zinc was too thick to alloy well with the copper. Good idea, though! :)
laffinm5 months ago
Did you know that all newer pennies are made mostly of zinc, so if you simply remove the top copper layer, you will also get a silver colored penny.
PopsicleGhoul (author)  laffinm5 months ago
Yeah, I knew that. I have actually removed the copper coating (using myst32yt's method on YouTube), but it is WAY harder than just electroplating a layer of zinc onto the penny. That method also uses chemicals some people might be uncomfortably with.