Vanadium Antifreeze Lye Plating Over Copper to Make Art With It.


Many people including a gold and silver company in the past told me it is very hard to get Vanadium oxide (V2O5) to plate to steel or copper. However antifreeze (Conc ethylene glycol) and Lye convert with electricity slowly the V2O5 into VO3 salt which is green-blue. Other forms of Vanadium have a rusty yellow green colour over copper.

I almost did not do this Project since it is kind of tricky. The plating only works for one batch and a new batch of Vanadium Oxide, Lye and Ethylene glycol must be used each time to get good results.

After 2 hrs the reaction should be stopped since going to long will give bad results. Electroplating with Negative wire to copper pipes and Positive to Copper electrode is Important and limiting time duration of Electroplating. The solution is quite Unstable thus time is essential.


95 percent concentrated Ethylene Glycol.

95 percent Potassium Hydroxide.

Tap Water

Vanadium Pent-oxide (V2O5)


Electroplating wires.

Copper Pipes.

DC Power supply (50-100 dollars Usual Price range). 0-30 volts, 0-5 amps.

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Step 1: Preparing the Fresh Solution and Adjusting the Voltage and Amps.

Add to a beaker roughly 200 ml of Antifreeze concentrated to about 2 to 5 g of Vanadium Oxide. Do Not go past 5 g at any time it hinder the results. Add water to 400 ml or 500 ml and add 10 g of Potassium Hydroxide.

DANGER: Vanadium Oxide as a chemical is very dangerous by Inhalation. Toxic by Ingestion. Antifreeze is toxic and Irritating and Lye is corrosive. Always wear PPE (gloves, apron and face shield when working with Harsh chemicals).

Dispose of these chemicals Properly - Eco centre.

The power supply rating should be 0.6 amps and 7-8 volts for 20-40 minutes. Do this only for 1.5 hrs or Until you see a green-blue pigment forming on the copper pipes (Smaller pipes work better). Negative to Pipes and Positive to Other copper wire or Electrode. Cranking up the wattage can ruin results!

Each time a new solution of V2O5 in antifreeze with Lye is required.

Step 2: Indication That the Vanadium Is Plating Well to the Copper.

Here I will explain the theory behind V2O5 plating.

EG( Ethylene Glycol) is a catalyst!.

V2O5 (aq) dissolved in Lye >>>> Antifreeze>>>> VO3 + K+

It very similar to K(VO3)3 salt.

K(VO3)3 >>> VO3-3 + 3K+ + 3OH-.

Antifreeze and water act to convert more Potassium metavandate into other compounds. Vanadium is a complex metal so it's chemistry is complex even for me.

The solution within if done correctly (5-10 minutes on the Negative terminal turn slime emarld green see second pic) then appear blue-green. If left for too long it can turn rusty yellow green (More than 4 hrs of plating at high voltage and amp rating!).

The choice is yours but if you prefer blue-green keep the voltage and current as I said before and try to keep it under 1.5 hrs. Make the prep solution K(VO3)3-- Potassium metavandate, Lye and Antifreeze freesh and don't allow it to sit more than 6 hrs max.

This is the "Difficult Part" of this Project.

The brown colour the solution will completely turn green indicating that solution can NO longer be used for Plating. There is a qualitative test (Visual) to see before adding more fresh copper pipes, etc.

Step 3: Final Thoughts on This New Technique.

Just by Looking at my Very first Instructable on different types of Plating I came across this method of plating with Iron sulphate. I am like what would happen if I did everything possible (Repeated it) and excluded Iron sulphate??

It is a difficult type of Plating much like Nickel or Gold plating or even Silver plating but It can be done with Practice. An issue is all the Vanadium waste that is produced afterwords so be prepared with glass bottles 500 ml to 2000 ml for storage and send them to the Eco centre.

  • Never dump V2O5 or any antifreeze down the drain!! This mixture is very toxic to life. Especially fish, etc.
  • Again always wear gloves V2O5 interferes with ATP production so it like a weak version of Cyanide.

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    8 Discussions


    5 days ago

    Some final results with Urethane paint.


    14 days ago

    You do all sorts of coating / plating of materials but do not tell what it's use is. Why would I want to plate copper with vanadium or potassium permangate?

    4 replies

    Reply 14 days ago

    Its use is Art to make Intersting art with copper pippes. Yes it is complex but that why I explained here.


    Reply 14 days ago

    Ah, for art. I thought it was for a special kind of protection of the copper. Which is odd as copper is pretty well protected from the environment just by itself. But you do it for the special colours. Which they get.


    Reply 14 days ago

    Corrison of copper then Urethaned etc can be very pretty. Once I soaked chromium (III) chloride which gives a green (dark) and light green colour due to copper chloride, copper hydroxide and chronium chloride onto copper.


    Reply 14 days ago

    The wire can be hung like this in a door or other places to match the colours. The first was a failed silver plate with Succamide, Lye, Silver nitrate, Potassium Nitrate and soap with distilled pure water. The second was zinc plating in lye with antimony waste!


    15 days ago

    A clear or white urethane like paint prevents the dye (VO3)-2 etc from coming off. Also the colour may change a bit.


    16 days ago

    A reminder that a Laquer like Clear Urethane Paint, etc should be added to the coat to prevent it from coming off. This is strongly recommended.