I'm rather unfamiliar with chemistry but I want to electroplate steel with copper.

From Wikipedia:

The cations associate with the anions in the solution. These cations are reduced at the cathode to deposit in the metallic, zero valence state. For example, in an acid solution, copper is oxidized at the anode to $\ce{Cu^2+}$ by losing two electrons. The $\ce{Cu^2+}$ associates with the anion $\ce{SO4^{2−}}$ in the solution to form copper sulfate. At the cathode, the $\ce{Cu^2+}$ is reduced to metallic copper by gaining two electrons. The result is the effective transfer of copper from the anode source to a plate covering the cathode.

I have also found a YouTube video where a guy uses $\ce{HCl}$ instead of $\ce{H2SO4}$.

What are the requirements for the reaction to work? Does it have to be an acid solution? Can I use vinegar?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You should be able to use copper acetate, which can be made from warm vinegar and hydrogen peroxide on copper (be very careful with this, warm peroxide can form dangerous compounds with some other organic chemicals). I suspect it would require higher voltage, however. I would have to confirm that before writing it as an answer. See: instructables.com/id/High-Quality-Copper-Plating $\endgroup$ – William Kappler May 18 '16 at 17:43

You can attempt to use a copper item as the anode in a vinegar solution; the $\ce{Cu}$ is oxidised to $\ce{Cu^2+}$ and the acidity of the vinegar prevents the precipitation of $\ce{Cu(OH)2}$. The copper acetate formed in solution will migrate to the cathode, where you can place your item to be plated.

However, as my own experiment has shown, too high a current will result in a black deposit, not pink as the copper crystals are plated to quickly to form large crystals and thus scatter light. So use a low current!


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