How to Electroplating a Quarter


Introduction: How to Electroplating a Quarter

Quarters are nice and silvery. What if they looked like a big penny? This video shows you how to electroplate metal objects.

How to Electroplate a Quarter
Attach a piece of copper (a penny should work) to the positive + end of a battery
Attach the quarter to the negative end -
Fill a beaker/glass with a copper salt...copper chloride, copper nitrate (any salt should work, even vinegar)
Fill the beaker with water and place in your metals



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    27 Discussions

    umm... will doing this expose me to harmful materials?

    Good video. It looks like the copper got oxide (or maybe it was just the camera). Pure copper should be shiny. I used 1.5V in my instructable. It took much longer since I didn't have any copper compounds.

    6 replies

    right,  you were seeing copper oxide.  Higher voltages result in over reactions at the electrode (a.k.a. burnt copper).  Best way to get a good result fast?...
    Attach multiple low voltage batteries in parallel (to increase the amps),  heat the solution (to increase ion transport), and somehow agitate the solution (to mitigate crystal growth).

    You should have a decently thick plate in seconds to minutes (depending on a lot of factors).

    also keep the electrodes at least 3 inches away from each other.  Decreasing distance has the same effect as increasing voltage.

    So high amps and low voltage, and seperation between electrodes keeps the electrodes from corroding?

    right, you're aiming to have the local voltage potential lower than 1.4 volts. Look up hydrogen potential (single electrode electrolysis), this will give you a better idea on how separation affects your electrodes.

    I'm trying to build a long term electrolysis unit that can be run for long periods at a time. I'd rather not have to think of some complex way of designing changeable electrodes, and I don't want to keep buying batteries for the carbon rods; I want something I can just glue in and let sit. Unfortunately, I'm not sure this is physically/chemically possible. Using very low voltage, say, .5v, and carbon rods from heavy duty carbon-zinc batteries, placed several inches away, would the carbon still corrode?

    That system would work, but the carbon is going to decay simply because of the fact that you are using them as anodes. I would suggest using a copper anode resting on some sort of slanted brush contact. this would allow the electrode to slide further into the solution as it wears out (kind of an auto feed mechanism). as to electrode distance... you don't have to worry about adjusting the distance, just be aware that there is a minimum distance and the more you encroach on it the more you're going to have problems with oxidization. Better too far than too close.

    What would make this work quicker - higher voltage or higher amperage? Also, does it have to be some sort of copper salt or can you use table salt - I got comfused when you said vinegar would work also.

    5 replies

    Also higher amps means faster reaction.  This means shorter plate time.  If you leave it in too long without something to randomize the direction of crystal growth large metal crystals will start to form on you surface.

    This has more to do with fluid physics than chemistry.

    Simplest solution...

    High amps - Multiple shorter dips in the electrolyte.

    What exactly are the crystals that form? I'm trying to troubleshoot my electroforming setup. I've been finding that eventually, all of my baths begin losing their effectiveness; simultaneously, transparent blue crystals form both on the copper anode as well as in the bottom of the container, using small pieces of dissolved copper as seeds.

    Agitating seems to help, but inevitably, some crystals form, and get filtered out when I'm cleaning the solution. I'm interested to know a little more about the chemistry that is going on so I can replace the right stuff to keep the solution balanced.

    The crystals that form are copper salts of the ion conductor that you are using. salts are forming because you salt concentration is reaching critical density. either add more water or add a sink layer.

    You are aiming for higher amperage. Higher voltages can lead to copper oxides forming (the black copper coating in the video).  It does need to be a copper salt.  When he said to use vinegar it was with the intention of making your own home made salt.  Almost all metal acetates are water soluble.  By adding vinegar to the solution the vinegar eats the copper electrode forming you salt until it reaches a proper density where it can coat the object at a reasonable speed.

    that cant be real it takes at least an hour to electroplate

    No, table salt will not work.

    Your copper electrode will corrode to form copper hydroxide and your quarter will just sit there and create little hydrogen bubbles. 

    The copper that forms the coating comes directly from the salt.  
    The only reason why you need a copper electrode is to replenish the salt. Otherwise the reaction would slow down as the salt was depleted and eventually you start having unwanted reactions like the hydroxide I just mentioned.

    Technically, but it wont allow as much current to flow as a copper mixture. It'll take a lot longer

    Will a 12 volt car battery work or is it to much juice

    how to electroplating a Quarter? Thats probably the worst grammar i've seen all day...