Nickel Plating Copper Without Electricity or Activator





Introduction: Nickel Plating Copper Without Electricity or Activator

Copper can be coated with Nickel using electrolysis(electro plating) or by an electroless process(autocatalytic phosphorus nickel), while the electroless process seems to be quite simple and inexpensive, the fact is that there are many metals like copper that are not catalytic to the process and can not be coated without using an expensive palladium chloride activator solution(palladium is quite expensive).

Enter Contact Plating discovered by Henry Bessemer in 1831 (Graham's Electroplating Engineering Handbook) it fell into obscurity shortly after electroplating became practical, but I still believe the process has merits especially for small/medium copper pieces like jewelr.

What is contact plating?

In Contact Plating we place a noble metal(Copper with a positive standard reduction potential) in contact with a more reactive metal like Aluminum(negative standard reduction potential), in an electrolyte solution of the metal we want to deposit, in this case Nickel Chloride, Nickel Chloride reacts with aluminum creating aluminum chloride and nickel metal(2 Al(s) + 3 NiCl2(aq) = 2 AlCl3(aq) + 3 Ni ) and while Copper is kept in contact with aluminum it's temporarily charged with Aluminums negative reduction potential charge and is electrically coated with Nickel.

Standard Reduction Potentials in Aqueous Solution.

Step 1: Equipment and Chemicals Need It

1. Heat source to keep electrolytic solution at 80/90 celsius(I used an electric hot plate).

2. Source of Aluminum container(I used a cast aluminum skillet).

3. Nickel Chloride(Saturated solution, one litter).

4. Safety Gear.

5. Pieces to be coated with Nickel(I cut some Copper piping to simulate Copper articles/Jewelry).

Step 2: Nickel Coating

Just heat the skillet and the Nickel Solution and placed the Copper articles(previously polished and properly cleaned and degreased), move/turn the pieces from time to time so they get coated evenly, about 5 minutes for a thin coat, you can leave it longer for a thicker coat of Nickel.

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31 Discussions

For Nickel electrolysis of brass or copper polarity is very important. Nickel plate (Positive) and Copper is Negative. I usually use 6-volt battery or 3-6 volt Snaps power supply for that.

Lower voltages 3 volts DC work better tho I heard even if it takes a lot longer.

I recommend getting tho this may be tough a aluminum pan for this if your going to do it. Do not use aluminum foil since Nickel chloride produces some Hydrochloric acid.

NiCl2 (aq) + 4H20 >>>> Ni(OH)2 + 2HCl.

It will very quickly eat right through the "Aluminum foil". This is a really good Instructable. However i find you can get better results with electroylsis.

Here the Label for NIckel chloride 6 hydrate. Be very careful with it!!


Don't forget Nickel waste too is very toxic and dangerous for the enivorment too.

Too ANYONE WHO want to try this. Be aware of Nickel chloride reacting towards aluminum in copper pipes. You need something stronger than aluminum foil Yes I have tried this for aluminum foil and it is too REACTIVE. The aluminum reacts very quickly with the hydrochloric acid in Nickel chloride. Does anyone have ANY SUGGESTIONS of what material besides aluminum foil could be used with Nickel chloride?

Diluting Phosphoric acid 85.5% with DISTILLED WATER to make a half and half mixture. Concentrated Phosphoric acid if Hot will eat through glass even Pyrex. This type has very low concentration of heavy metals as well.

I am thinking manganese dioxide in 40% Phosphoric acid with steel wool heated to 90-100 degrees C.

You can buy 85.5% Phosphoric acid and Manganese dioxide on e-bay.

Have you tried sodium dichromate with steel and aluminum foil I wonder if that would work? The pH of sodium dichromate is 6.0-6.5 when both chromates and dichromates are in a equilibrium. The low acidity of the sodium dichromate may work to plate steel bars. Normally at 5 g Sodium dichromate per 500 ml tap water in aluminum foil may work. I may try it to see if it works.

You have tried Cobalt Chloride hmmm. I have tried adding very carefully Cobalt chloride or equil salt to it with Lye and hydrogen peroxide. Then I add copper pipes through electroylsis and this coats the copper with the coblat (III) hydroxide. It has been proven to be safe for normal diposal (lot of water washes the lye and it becomes Insoluble).

Good job here. You should indicate that all Nickel salts especially Nickel chloride salts are class 1A (Proven to cause cancer in Humans). Also I have a question does the aluminum act as a catylist or is this a reversible equalbrium?

1 reply

That is correct, I forgot about that, I have also tried with Cobalt Chloride, it gives a true chrome appearance, the aluminum works as a power source of sorts, like a electrolytic cell battery, it provides the negative charge(cathode) and the positive charge comes from the nickel electrolyte this will be true for most metal electrolytes like copper, cobalt, nickel and maybe their mixture to form alloy but I have not tested that yet.

Is it possible with this method of creating Cupric nickel alloy with a propane stove 400-800 degrees C?

I meant Nickel Chloride monohydrate 100 g for 21 dollars.

Hey I checked Nickel Chloride salt on and I got nothing. You may be able to BUY it over the Border but what about the border tax and the fact that it is a dangerous chemical? I bought 100 g Nickel Chloride with water 100% for 21 dollars and Sodium acetate 3 hydrate 100 g for 50 dollars CAN at Prolab Scientific. Much purer and cleaner than what they offer on e-bay, Prolab has a min order of 25 dollars so it was fairly expensive. However in general most of there chemicals at a price are purer. If anybody is from Quebec or Ontario check them out (Not advertisemt) just saying anybody can get chemicals expect Nitric acid or Nitrate salts.

Tap Water and at least 50 mg per litter is need it

Hi would Nickel(II) sulfate be used instead of Nickel (II) chloride or do you need Nickel (II) chloride?

1 reply

Nickel Sulfate will have no effect on activating the aluminum base.. Chloride ions from the nickel chloride will and that is why this works.