I'm a sculptor and I have a chemistry/plastic question. I thought here would be a good place to ask. I'm looking for a substance (probably a plastic) that has these characteristics:

  1. Doesn't melt at the annealing temperature of Copper (doesn't melt at 700 degrees Fahrenheit)

  2. Can be dissolved/made non-solid/melted by a process that will not affect copper (a specific acid?)

  3. Is available in a wire form

  4. Is relatively flexible

I want to wind long coils of tiny copper wire around a flexible core (the plastic I'm looking for), form that coil into complex shapes, then get rid of the core so as to be left only with the copper wire showing

I understand these requirements are perhaps impossible to meet...Just wondering if someone with good knowledge of plastics maybe has an idea.

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    $\begingroup$ Magnesium or aluminium? Available in wire form, dissolve in hydrochloric acid, melt at 1200+ F. $\endgroup$
    – permeakra
    Sep 22 '14 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ Won`t hydrochloric acid dissolve copper as well though? $\endgroup$ Sep 22 '14 at 23:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ No, copper doesn't react with HCl. It takes an oxidizing acid, like nitric, to dissolve copper (or silver or gold [actually a mix of nitric and HCl for gold, aqua regia.]) $\endgroup$ Sep 23 '14 at 0:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Luke Technically it should not. At least, aluminium/magnesium will dissolve first (though in case of aluminium reaction may start very slowly but react with unhealthy speed once started). However, if left with easy access of air for prolonged period of time, copper indeed may dissolve, especially if iron ions are present. TL;DR: not if you wash it with water immidiately after dissolving aluminium, but if you leave it for days or weeks, some of it may dissolve. $\endgroup$
    – permeakra
    Sep 23 '14 at 8:57

Aluminium and Magnesium react vigorously with mineral acids. A lot of heat is evolved. Try iron/steel wire, which is cheaper and available in any diameter. Georg


Alright, seems like aluminium wire and hydrochloric acid is the way to go! Thank you so much, it would have taken me days of googling to figure this one out!

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Careful, it'll evolve hydrogen gas and can be pretty vigorous, depending on how concentrated it is. Make sure you have good ventilation and don't use too concentrated acid. $\endgroup$ Sep 23 '14 at 3:03
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Always do these kinds of things under a hood. That way if there is a problem you can just close it up. $\endgroup$ Sep 23 '14 at 5:40
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ +1 for vigorous reaction and hydrogen warning. Especially hydrogen: it forms exploding mixtures with air, so good ventilation/fume hood and absence of open fire/sparks are an absolute requirement. $\endgroup$
    – permeakra
    Sep 23 '14 at 9:02
  • $\begingroup$ I know it's been a while, but could you add why you chose this for the experiment? $\endgroup$
    – jonsca
    Dec 23 '14 at 1:40

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