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I want to avoid anything poisonous during electroplating. I can't avoid copper oxide though.

I have dissolved $\ce{Na2CO3}$ in water and I'm trying to electroplate aluminium with copper:

photo of the electrolysis

As you can see I'm doing it with no actual chemical equipment. Actually I'm trying to discover ways that can be done at home.

In the water, I can see copper hydroxide ($\ce{Cu(OH)2}$) and copper carbonate ($\ce{CuCO3}$), both formed from the copper anode. But the aluminium heatsink does not seem to have any copper on it. Will it take time or am I just wasting copper here?

If this is not gonna work, what is gonna work? Could I use vinegar?

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  • $\begingroup$ What does it mean some copper oxide? What kind of substance did you use for adding copper in the solution? $CuSO_4$? $\endgroup$ – Jaroslav Kotowski Jun 26 '14 at 10:54
  • $\begingroup$ The copper oxide is generated by the oxidation of anode (which is a copper PCB). If I had $\ce{CuSO4}$ I'd use it as an electrolyte. And I was wondering if vinegar could help instead (because I don't have $\ce{H2SO4}$). $\endgroup$ – Tomáš Zato Jun 26 '14 at 13:40
  • $\begingroup$ It is possible to buy copper sulfate in a shop (it was used for pool cleaning). Without copper in the solution the deposition will not occur (oxidation of the anode is in this case insufficient). I have seen some recipes where vinegar was used, but the deposition will be complicated. For direct aluminium copper plating is generally used cyanide baths (I am strongly against using them). $\endgroup$ – Jaroslav Kotowski Jun 27 '14 at 8:41
  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking that if dissolve the copper hydroxide and copper carbonate in vinegar I could electroplate with them. But I'm not sure if it's that easy. I want to avoid any poisons. From what I have discovered, both copper compounds in the solution are not poisonous. Copper sulfate is poisonous (especially dangerous to human eye) and I guess cyanide isn't safe either. $\endgroup$ – Tomáš Zato Jun 27 '14 at 9:48
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You can try the electrodeposition in a solution prepared by mixing baking soda with vinegar and the copper sulfate. Wear glove and protection glasses. The aluminium must be cleaned before plating. Please let me know the result.

Acidic copper plating on aluminium will cause evolution of hydrogen, so less acidic solution is better. On the other hand you need to have the solution conductive and the baking soda could help.

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  • $\begingroup$ Will not baking soda neutralise vinegar? As far as I know, this combination is used to amuse children with safe "explosions" (eg. volcanoe). Also what's the point of these two when copper sulfate is present? $\endgroup$ – Tomáš Zato Jun 27 '14 at 11:28

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