Introduction: Turn Copper Pennies Into Silver and Gold [Chemistry Trick]

In a display of alchemy we turn copper pennies into silver and finally to gold. Obviously it's a chemistry trick but still impressive.

First we get 30g of zinc sulfate and dissolve it into 100mL of water.

Zinc sulfate was made back in our video on making a copper sulfate and
zinc battery:

If you don't have zinc sulfate or can't make it, you can also use zinc chloride. This can be made by simply mixing hydrochloric acid with zinc metal and waiting until the fizzing stops.

Then we drop in several cut strips of zinc metal.

Zinc metal was obtained from our video on getting useful materials from batteries:

The solution is heated to a boil and copper pennies, that have been thoroughly washed/cleaned, are dropped in. They must touch the zinc in order for this reaction to work. Leave it in for five to ten minutes.

The zinc metal dissolves and releases electrons that go into the copper and give it a negative charge. The zinc ions in solution now redeposit form a thin layer of zinc metal. Giving the coin a silvery color.

Now the smart physical chemist might wonder how this can possibly work. Overall we're going from zinc metal to zinc metal and at first it seems like we're missing something about thermodynamics. What is the driving force? I've searched the literature and there doesn't seem to be a consensus among scientists, some claim it's a surface free energy issue with zinc having a lower potential on copper than in free solution (at high concentration). Others state that it's  an alloy of zinc metal and copper on the surface. The silvery color you're seeing on the penny is actually a type of white brass, not pure zinc. This is thermodynamically more favorable than pure separate metals and thus serves as the driving force.

Anyway, whatever the specific chemical reason, we've now deposited zinc onto copper.

The most amazing trick is to turn it into gold. Simply wash the coin and place it on a hotplate heated to about 300 Celsius. As it heats the zinc will diffuse into the copper, forming brass on the surface that looks like gold.

Eventually it will wear off but the results are rather impressive.


hussaina1 (author)2017-11-03

it is real gold????????????????????????????????

create-it1205 (author)2017-06-13

i came looking for copper but found gold

SHOE0007 made it! (author)2017-05-29

Has anyone tried this with copper pipes. Here are some images.

LittleBilly (author)2016-08-25


sivasancaran26 (author)2015-12-13

i take gold from old gold coted materials

sivasancaran26 (author)2015-12-13

i like it

rgallazzi (author)2015-03-26

You can use a safer reaction of Zinc Chloride 1M solution boiled with zinc metal. Then add the pennies, wait 10 minutes. Take them out and rinse them off, they will be silver. Then place them on low heat of hot plate or flame gently until they turn gold. Also clean the pennies first with salt water and vinegar to make them shiny before doing the experiment. They will be much more attractive than the ones above.

Openclose49 (author)rgallazzi2015-04-08


vaibhavg1 (author)2014-07-26

Hi ,

Want it to know purity level of the gold which we had created and also weight

rgallazzi (author)vaibhavg12015-03-26

It's not Au gold. It is copper and zinc melted together forming brass.

ridalyn (author)vaibhavg12014-08-17

This experiment does not create gold. It only plates a zinc alloy on the penny that when heated turns a goldish colour. This is a standard classroom assignment in most high school chemistry classes.

krantik (author)2014-08-24

can we use zinc metal powder in place of zinc metal pieces for experiment .and plz tell me what is the difference between zinc metal strips and zinc metal powder.

rgallazzi (author)krantik2015-03-26

zinc powder makes dust which is highly flammable and so is not recommended. Better to have zinc strips or zinc granular.

Eliza Dark (author)2014-12-16

Alchemy is just basic life to more mature but soon it becomes equivalent exchange you always need the ingredients befor u start. And with this. It's basic equivalent exchange !!! :) right?

World taker (author)2012-11-27

hi my all dears, i respect all of you i admire your skills, i am a alchemist professionally. i am very near to show my experiment on copper conversion to silver. i have a problem here which i want to share with experts like u all here,i have need of potassium nitrate in an oil form, an oil form that must be oil on heating's, mean it may not to evaporate on heating's be stable having all the basic properties of kno3, this oil form of kno3 is my final obstacle to my dream, remember its not a cheap or fake notice, any one having interest in alchemy will understand that what am saying that is WHAT, so one who has such a strong knowledge please help me on the reward i will give him my formula after my discovery of low energy synthesis process of copper conversion to..................awesome.

ridalyn (author)World taker2014-08-17

just so you know... transmutation of elements is still illegal. Believe it or not. Kind of funny actually, I guess it one of those really old (about 200 years old) blue laws that never came off the books.

sheneel (author)2014-06-13

I have to silver plate a copper bracelet but i can't increase the mass by more than 5g. what to do?

ChmE (author)2014-06-03

I am fairly certain you are mistaken. If not, then I may be but would like an explanation of course.

The reaction in which Zn(s)+2NaOH-->[Zn(OH)3H2O]-Na+ Does not just release 2 electrons. Hydrogen gas is evolved so while zinc is oxidized, hydrogen ions are reduced to their elemental state in a perfect 1:1 ratio with zinc. So that leaves the question: How/Why does the zinc(II) ion end up plating onto the penny?? It isn't even thermodynamically favorable as a cell...

I do commend you for your very rational entropy explanation for the silvery film that is the alloy.

NurdRage (author)ChmE2014-06-05

Your reaction equation is wrong, there is no sodium hydroxide used anywhere in this experiment

MrDrSmith (author)2013-12-20

Finally an explanation that makes sense.

"The silvery color you're seeing on the penny is actually a type of white brass, not pure zinc. This is thermodynamically more favorable than pure separate metals and thus serves as the driving force"

I really like this explanation. It's a simple entropy argument. Zinc alloy is preferred over pure zinc because it's less ordered. Entropy always increases.

gaspersimon (author)2013-09-11

Can you please post some literature links or titles.

Gerrles (author)2011-02-19

I cant make the materials because i dont have time , so do u know where i can buy or substitute zinc sulfate and zinc metal
(Im not using the internet for this stuff)

mattman2 (author)Gerrles2012-12-07

in fact you are using the internet for this because you asked via the internet

paullene (author)2012-03-11

is the silver coating on the wire permanent? please please i need you helppp

Rebreg (author)paullene2012-06-30


OSITOPANDA4MIL (author)2012-02-27

hi there. I want to know why the zink around the cupper coin (from the experiment turning cupper coins into gold) turns to gold when you heat it. thanks!!!! :)

TheAmateurArtisan (author)2011-12-30

wait... it says brass... shoot. Sorry for being redundant right there.

TheAmateurArtisan (author)2011-12-30

a side note is that all you have to do is heat most pennies since they are zinc cores plated with copper.

ElectricUmbrella (author)2011-02-19

When I look up zinc sulfate on eBay, most of the results say "zinc sulfate mono hydrate." Does the "mono hydrate" mean anything, and if so will it change the reaction?

the mono hydrate means it has 1 water molecule in it

it'll still work, go for it :)

NurdRage (author)2011-07-27

But it has no clothes, just the color is being changed.

that was a mediphor... shouldnt the title be named changing coppers color to gold and silver. It looks like your creating nothing more then a copper alloy. Im a huge science lover. Im just looking for new ideas to make cash. I thought ill try doing something that i like.

the title is also a "mediphor"

is it passable to chemically change a copper element to a gold or silver? Or any other element for that matter. Perhaps by add or subtracting excisting protons Ion or nuetrons? Fussion proccess maybe?

nuclear fusion can turn elemental copper into elemental gold. but that is beyond the ability of the home chemist.

chemicallypsycho (author)2011-07-27

Its also common knowledge that pennies are not all copper. Is the partner metal also effected by this experiment?

giovibleu (author)2011-04-07

Hi Nurd! I don´t undestand about chemistry.
so, do this trick also works with silver ?
or is there another way to get this effect?

Danny574 (author)2011-01-02

I've done it with a 30% sodium hydroxide solution and zinkpowder two years ago as christmaspresant.

Guppy8 (author)2010-09-25

Could this be done with aluminium sulfate, aluminium metal, and copper?

mahirh (author)2010-07-18

displacement reaction in short thanks!

joosh (author)2010-07-18

I did this in my chemistry class for our first lab. Hmm... I still have my lab some where in my lab manual and now I want to go find it.

mikeasaurus (author)2010-05-22

neat trick. how long to have the coating wear off and the coin returns to a copper colour?

rimar2000 (author)2010-05-21

Very interesting. 

I learned to cover with zinc a piece of metal (iron or bronze in my case) using a plastic brush soaked in zinc chloride, connected to the positive pole of the battery charger.

About This Instructable




Bio: NurdRage is a dedicate group of science nerds trying to further amateur science with direct how-to instructions in video format. We saw what was already ... More »
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